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Bill Walton, N.B.A. Hall of Famer and Broadcasting Star, Dies at 71

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Basketball|Bill Walton, N.B.A. Hall of Famer and Broadcasting Star, Dies at 71

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/27/sports/basketball/bill-walton-dead.html

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He won championships in high school, college (U.C.L.A.) and the pros (Trail Blazers and Celtics) before turning to TV as a talkative game analyst in the college ranks.

Bill Walton, right, of the Portland Trail Blazers tangling with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers during a playoff game in 1977. Portland went on to win the N.B.A. championship that year.Credit...Associated Press

Bill Walton, a center whose extraordinary passing and rebounding skills helped him win two national college championships with U.C.L.A. and one each with the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics of the N.B.A., and who overcame a stutter to become a loquacious commentator, died on Monday at his home in San Diego. He was 71.

The N.B.A. said he died of colon cancer.

A redheaded hippie and devoted Grateful Dead fan, Walton was an acolyte of the U.C.L.A. coach John Wooden and the hub of the Bruins team that won N.C.A.A. championships in 1972 and 1973 and extended an 88-game winning streak that had begun in 1971. He was named the national player of the year three times.

Walton's greatest game was the 1973 national championship against Memphis State, played in St. Louis. He got into foul trouble in the first half, but went on to score a record 44 points on 21-for-22 shooting and had 11 rebounds in U.C.L.A.'s 87-66 victory. It was the school's ninth title in 10 years.

Walton — not yet known for his often hyperbolic, stream of consciousness speaking skills — refused to say much after the game. As he left the locker room, he told reporters, "Excuse me, I want to go meet my friends. I'm splitting."

He played one more year at U.C.L.A. before being selected by Portland first overall in the 1974 N.B.A. draft. He weathered injuries, two losing seasons under Coach Lenny Wilkens and criticism over his vegetarian diet and his red ponytail and beard before winning the 1977 championship under Coach Jack Ramsay.

"I think Jack Ramsay reached Walton," Eddie Donovan, the Knicks general manager, told the columnist Dave Anderson of The New York Times. "Of all the coaches in our league, Jack Ramsay is the closest to being the John Wooden type — scholarly, available. I think Walton responded to that."

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