UCLA and NBA Legend Bill Walton Dies at 71 Years Old

By Dan Hope on May 27, 2024 at 1:57 pm
Bill Walton
Bob Donnan – USA TODAY Sports

One of the greatest players in college basketball history died on Monday.

Bill Walton, a three-time national player of the year at UCLA who went on to star in the NBA, passed away on Memorial Day after a battle with cancer. He was 71 years old.

A dominant center who averaged 20.3 points and 15.7 rebounds per game across his three seasons at UCLA, Walton led John Wooden’s Bruins to back-to-back 30-0 national championship seasons in 1972 and 1973 as part of an 88-game winning streak. He is one of just four players ever to win national college basketball player of the year honors three seasons in a row along with Oscar Robertson, fellow UCLA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Ralph Sampson.

Walton continued his dominance in his first four NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, in which he averaged 17.1 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. He made two NBA All-Star teams, led Portland to an NBA championship as NBA Finals MVP in 1977 and was the NBA MVP in 1978.

Walton battled injuries for the rest of his career, missing three of the next four seasons due to a foot issue, but won a second NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 1986, when he was the league’s Sixth Man of the Year as he averaged 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in just 19 minutes per game off the bench. 

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

In his later years, Walton became famous to a new generation of basketball fans as a color commentator. Known for his eccentric personality, Walton was a staple of ESPN’s Pac-12 game coverage in the conference’s later years, entertaining audience with his unique blend of basketball analysis mixed with random observations.

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