Bill Walton Obituary: Celebrating a Basketball Legend and Unique Soul

Bill Walton, the Hall of Fame center celebrated for his triumphant yet tumultuous career, passed away on Monday at 71 after battling cancer. Walton’s legacy as one of the most dominant and versatile centers in …

bill walton obituary

Bill Walton, the Hall of Fame center celebrated for his triumphant yet tumultuous career, passed away on Monday at 71 after battling cancer. Walton’s legacy as one of the most dominant and versatile centers in basketball history includes numerous accolades and a life marked by both triumph and controversy.

A Storied Career from High School to the NBA

Walton’s journey to greatness began at Helix High in La Mesa, California, where he secured two state titles. His impressive performance continued at UCLA, under the guidance of legendary coach John Wooden, where he led the Bruins to two consecutive NCAA titles in 1972 and 1973.

Walton’s collegiate career was highlighted by a remarkable championship game in 1973, where he scored 44 points while missing only one of his 22 shots. His impact on the game earned him three National College Player of the Year awards.

Drafted first overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1974, Walton quickly became a formidable force in the NBA. He led the Trail Blazers to their first and only NBA championship in 1977, earning the Finals MVP award. The following season, he was named the NBA’s regular season MVP. Despite his success on the court, Walton’s career was plagued by injuries, leading to multiple surgeries and affecting his time with the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers.

Revival with the Boston Celtics

Walton’s career saw a resurgence with the Boston Celtics, where he embraced a role as a reliable backup, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 1986. That year, he helped the Celtics secure another NBA title, marking the second championship of his career. Walton’s contributions to basketball were immortalized in 1993 when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1997, he was named one of the NBA’s Top 50 players of all time.

Beyond Basketball: Walton’s Unique Personality and Broadcaster Career

Bill Walton was known not only for his basketball prowess but also for his vibrant personality and outspoken views. His political activism, particularly his opposition to the Vietnam War, often brought him into the spotlight off the court. Despite these controversies, Walton’s passion for life and his community remained a defining characteristic throughout his career.

After retiring from professional basketball, Walton transitioned into a successful broadcasting career. Known for his colorful and insightful commentary, he brought a unique blend of humor and intelligence to his coverage of NBA and NCAA games. Walton’s broadcasts were peppered with witty remarks and profound observations, making him a beloved figure among fans.

Tributes from Friends and Colleagues

The impact of Walton’s life and career was reflected in the heartfelt tributes from friends, colleagues, and notable figures. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a fellow UCLA center and NBA rival, expressed his deep sorrow, highlighting Walton’s dedication to making others happy. Former President Barack Obama praised Walton as a champion and a kind spirit, while ESPN broadcaster Dave Pasch reminisced about their close friendship and memorable times together.

Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, who played alongside Walton in Boston, admired Walton’s relentless pursuit of excellence. Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart remembered Walton as an irreplaceable friend, and Hall of Famer Alex English commended Walton for his commitment to social justice.

Bill Walton’s Legacy and Lasting Impact

Bill Walton’s legacy extends beyond his impressive list of accomplishments. He was a unique and genuine individual who left an indelible mark on everyone he encountered. From his early days at UCLA to his triumphant moments in the NBA and his dynamic presence as a broadcaster, Walton’s influence on the game of basketball and those around him was profound.

Walton is survived by his wife, Lori, and his four sons, all of whom played college basketball. His son, Luke Walton, followed in his footsteps, winning two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. Walton’s brother, Bruce, who passed away in 2019, played in the Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys, making them the first siblings to compete in both NFL and NBA championship games.


Bill Walton’s life was a testament to resilience, passion, and an unwavering commitment to his beliefs. His journey from a dominant center at UCLA to an NBA champion and beloved broadcaster illustrates a life lived to its fullest. As we remember Walton, we celebrate not only his achievements on the basketball court but also the joy, curiosity, and kindness he brought to everyone around him. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations of basketball players and fans alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

What were Bill Walton’s major accomplishments in basketball?

Bill Walton won two NCAA titles with UCLA, two NBA championships (one with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977 and one with the Boston Celtics in 1986), and was named the NBA Finals MVP and regular season MVP. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 and named one of the NBA’s Top 50 players of all time.

How did injuries affect Bill Walton’s career?

Walton’s career was significantly impacted by injuries, particularly foot and knee issues, which led to nearly 40 orthopedic surgeries. These injuries hindered his performance and led to periods of limited play, especially during his time with the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers.

What was Bill Walton known for as a broadcaster?

As a broadcaster, Bill Walton was known for his colorful and insightful commentary, often infused with humor and profound observations. He brought a unique personality to NBA and NCAA game coverage, making him a beloved figure among fans.

How did Bill Walton contribute to social justice?

Bill Walton was an outspoken advocate for social justice, often using his platform to speak out against the Vietnam War and other political issues. His activism sometimes sparked controversy, but he remained committed to his beliefs throughout his life.

What is Bill Walton’s legacy in the basketball world?

Bill Walton’s legacy in basketball is marked by his dominance as a player, his resilience in overcoming injuries, and his vibrant personality as a broadcaster. He inspired countless players and fans with his passion for the game and his commitment to making the world a better place.

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