NBA Champion, Hall of Famer Bill Walton Dies at 71

Basketball legend Bill Walton, who led the UCLA Bruins to two national titles before winning two championships in his NBA career, has died at age 71 after a long battle with cancer.

The NBA released a statement saying Walton died Monday surrounded by his family.

“Bill Walton is truly one of a kind,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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 the NBA’s 50th 75th Anniversary Team.”

“Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love of the game to broadcasting, where he provided insightful and colorful commentary that delighted generations of basketball fans.”

Walton originally joined ESPN and ABC as the lead analyst for NBA games before switching to college basketball in 2002. He also worked for CBS and NBC and was named one of the 50 Greatest Sportscasters of All Time by the American Sportscasters Association. 2009.

The first overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, the 6-foot-11 Walton played 10 seasons in the NBA, winning championships with the Blazers (1977) and Boston Celtics (1986). He averaged a career double-double with 6,215 points (13.3 per game), 4,923 rebounds (10.5 per game), 1,034 blocks (2.2 per game) and 1,590 assists for a total of 6,215 points (10.5 per game).

A two-time All-Star, he led the NBA in rebounding and blocks in 1977 and was the league’s sixth-best man in 1986.

“What I remember most about him was his passion for life, Silver said in his statement. “He was a regular presence at league events — always upbeat, with an ear-to-ear smile and eager to share his wisdom and warmth. I treasured our close friendship, envied his boundless energy, and admired the time he spent with every person he met.

“As a cherished member of the NBA family for 50 years, Bill will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.”

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