Magic Johnson, Julius Erving And More Pay Tribute To NBA Legend Bill Walton After His Death At 71

 Bill Walton at NBA 75th Anniversary ceremony.
Bill Walton at NBA 75th Anniversary ceremony.

It’s rarely ever easy when fans must say goodbye to a beloved sports icon, and today is such an occasion. We have confirmation that legendary NBA center Bill Walton has sadly died at the age of 71. Per the news, the beloved athlete passed away following a prolonged battle with cancer and was surrounded by family and friends at the time. Since the news of Walton’s death broke, numerous fans, sports pundits, current and former players alike have reached out and paid tribute to the hall of famer. And among them are the likes of Magic Johnson Julius “Dr. J” Erving.

Magic Johnson, one of the NBA GOATS, is certainly someone who’s had a fair amount of encounters with Bill Walton during his lifetime. The revered athletes played each other more than a few times throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. And, even after their NBA stints ended, the two remained good friends. Upon learning of his comrade’s passing, Johnson took to X to pay tribute:

Julius "Dr. J." Erving also crossed paths with the late basketball player during those aforementioned decades. He paid tribute with an Instagram post that included a sweet photo and caption:

Born in La Mesa, California on November 5, 1952, the late 6’11” star played college basketball at UCLA, where he led his team to two consecutive championships in 1972 and 1973. While in school, he also won other honors, including three National college player of the year titles. He was ultimately drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers as the first overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft. As a Blazer, he became an NBA champion in 1977, even earning Finals MVP honors. Additionally, he was named league MVP, made two All-Star teams and reached other benchmarks while in Portland.

After leaving the team in 1979, Bill Walton would have a six-year stint with the San Diego Clippers and spend three seasons with the Boston Celtics, where he’d win his second championship. The center retired in 1988 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. Since then, many continue to admire his heroics on the court, his work ethic and character. ESPN pundit Stephen A. Smith, who’s known to reach out amid personal matters involving NBA players, shared his own tribute to Walton on X. Take a look:

ESPN pundit Stephen A. Smith, who’s known to reach out amid personal matters involving NBA players, shared his own tribute to Walton on X. Take a look:

The former Sixth Man of the Year receives a lot of respect from fellow centers, many of which he blazed a trail for (no pun intended). Fellow Celtic Kendrick Perkins – who works with Stephen A. Smith at ESPN – shared a message of admiration on X following the basketball legend’s death:

Rest in Peace to the Legend Bill Walton!!! 🙏🏾

Bill Walton’s passing was confirmed by the National Basketball Association via a press release. It also included a statement from league commissioner Adam Silver, which was shared on Instagram. And he shared some respectful thoughts on the late Walton:

Bill Walton was truly one of a kind. As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position. His unique all-around skills made him a dominant force at UCLA and led to an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships and a spot on the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams. Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans. But what I will remember most about him was his zest for life. He was a regular presence at league events – always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. I treasured our close friendship, envied his boundless energy and admired the time he took with every person he encountered.

Of course, the player-turned-sports analyst (who was hilarious on TV) also garnered respect from athletes known for other sports. Former New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman dropped a message of his own on X and added a sweet flourish to the message that alludes to the player’s past status as a Celtic:

An absolute legend. RIP Bill Walton☘️

While it’s tough to have to bid farewell to such a beloved man of great character, it’s wonderful when people come together like this to pay tribute. It’s similar to how stars and fans memorialized the late Bill Russell after his passing, and paid tribute after Kobe Bryant's death. Bill Walton may be gone, but he surely won’t be forgotten. And we here at CinemaBlend extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones at this time.