Bill Walton, NBA Hall of Famer and Sportscaster, Dead at 71: 'A Cherished Member of the NBA Family'

Walton won NBA championships with the Celtics and Trail Blazers, before becoming a sportscaster

<p>Allen Berezovsky/Getty</p> Bill Walton in 2023

Allen Berezovsky/Getty

Bill Walton in 2023

Bill Walton, who won two NBA championships and was a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, has died at the age of 71, the NBA confirmed on May 27.

Walton died "following a prolonged battle with cancer" while "surrounded by his family," the NBA said in a press release.

"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," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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."

Silver also highlighted Walton's "zest for life," calling him "always upbeat" and noting his "boundless energy."

<p>Mark Junge/Getty</p> Bill Walton playing for the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977

Mark Junge/Getty

Bill Walton playing for the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977

"As a cherished member of the NBA family for 50 years, Bill will be deeply missed by all those who came to know and love him. My heartfelt condolences to Bill's wife, Lori; his sons, Adam, Nate, Luke and Chris; and his many friends and colleagues," said Silver.

Walton played for the University of California, Los Angeles in college, leading the team to two national titles before being drafted as the first pick in 1974. Walton made "remarkable accomplishments as a player" for UCLA, current head men's basketball coach Mick Cronin said in a statement.

"Beyond his remarkable accomplishments as a player, it's his relentless energy, enthusiasm for the game and unwavering candor that have been the hallmarks of his larger than life personality," said Cronin. "As a passionate UCLA alumnus and broadcaster, he loved being around our players, hearing their stories, and sharing his wisdom and advice. For me as a coach, he was honest, kind, and always had his heart in the right place. I will miss him very much."

With the Portland Trail Blazers, Walton won a championship in 1977. Nearly a decade later, he won the championship, again, with the Boston Celtics in 1986.

<p>Bettmann/Getty</p> Bill Walton in 1974


Bill Walton in 1974

Among his other accolades were two-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-Defensive selection, former Sixth Man of the Year and one of the 75 on the NBA's greatest players list.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 after retiring as a player a few years prior. During his induction speech, Walton said that "nothing is better than making it into the Hall of Fame with this wonderful group." He also said that the "real thanks should go to the fans of basketball . . . I've been all over the world and basketball has given me an odyssey of a trip around the world. It has exposed me to so many things outside of my hometown of San Diego."

"When I look back and reminisce about my career and the accomplishments that i've been able to receive, and to realize that of the thousands and thousands of players who have played professional basketball, there is less than 60 of us that have made it into the hall of fame, I am made to feel a very, very special person tonight," he said at the time.

<p>Bob Riha, Jr./Getty</p> Bill Walton in 2001

Bob Riha, Jr./Getty

Bill Walton in 2001

Walton began his broadcasting career in 2002, and commented on the NBA and college basketball for ESPN, ABC, CBS and NBC throughout his on-air tenure.

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