Bill Walton dies at 71: NBA announces Hall of Famer’s death after battle with cancer

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Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton died Monday at the age of 71 after a battle with cancer, the NBA announced.

Walton’s battle with cancer was described as “prolonged.” He was surrounded by his family at the time of his death.

Walton was a star during his basketball career. He earned the nickname “Big Red” for his size and flowing, red locks and played parts of 10 NBA seasons while missing four due to chronic foot injuries. He won the 1977-78 NBA MVP and earned two NBA championships, one with the Trail Blazers in 1977 and one with the Celtics in 1986.

After his playing career, Walton transitioned into broadcasting, becoming one of basketball’s most unique and beloved talents on air.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement about Walton’s death. “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.”

Silver’s tribute to Walton was just one of many to roll in after the announcement of his death. Many sports fans and members of the basketball world paid tribute to him with their favorite memories of him both on the court and as an announcer.

Below are some of the most notable tributes to Walton.

What cancer did Bill Walton have?

Walton and his family kept his battle with cancer close to the vest. They never revealed what type of cancer he had, and it isn’t clear whether they will announce it after his passing.

Bill Walton teams

Walton played for three teams during his NBA career. They were as follows:

  • Portland Trail Blazers (1974-79)
  • San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers (1979-85)
  • Boston Celtics (1985-88)

Walton won his first NBA title in 1977 with the Trail Blazers and followed that up with an MVP season in 1977-78. He won his second (and final) NBA championship with the Celtics in 1986 — a year during which he was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

He played one more season after the 1986 title before retiring due to injuries.

Bill Walton stats

Walton averaged a double-double during his NBA career with 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists across 468 games. His best season came when he won the 1977-78 MVP, averaging a career-high 18.9 points with 13.2 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.5 blocks.

Below is a year-by-year look at his per-game stats:

Year Team Games Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
1974-75 Trail Blazers 35 12.8 12.6 4.8 0.8 2.7
1975-76 Trail Blazers 51 16.1 13.4 4.3 1.0 1.6
1976-77 Trail Blazers 65 18.6 14.4 3.8 1.0 3.2
1977-78 Trail Blazers 58 18.9 13.2 5.0 1.0 2.5
1979-80 Clippers 14 13.9 9.0 2.4 0.6 2.7
1982-83 Clippers 33 14.1 9.8 3.6 1.0 3.6
1983-84 Clippers 55 12.1 8.7 3.3 0.8 1.6
1984-85 Clippers 67 10.1 9.0 2.3 0.7 2.1
1985-86 Celtics 80 7.6 6.8 2.1 0.5 1.3
1986-87 Celtics 10 2.8 3.1 0.9 0.1 1.0

Walton did not play in four seasons during his NBA career — 1978-79, 1980-81, 1981-82 and 1987-88 — because of injury.

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