Bill Walton, NBA Great and Emmy-Winning Broadcaster, Dead at 71

The two-time NBA champion and one-time Finals MVP succumbed to a long battle with cancer.

A smiling man in a zip-up sports jacket stands in a stadium with a crowd in the background.
Allen Berezovsky via Getty Images
A smiling man in a zip-up sports jacket stands in a stadium with a crowd in the background.

Two-time NBA champion and sportscaster Bill Walton has passed away at 71.

Walton, a basketball Hall of Famer and two-time All-Star, died on Monday, May 27 following a battle with cancer, the NBA confirmed. He died surrounded by his family.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “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."

Silver said what he will remember most about Walton is his "zest for life," bringing an infectious energy to league events he attended. "I treasured our close friendship, envied his boundless energy and admired the time he took with every person he encountered," he added.

The following has been released by the NBA.

— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) May 27, 2024
Twitter: @NBAPR

Walton's basketball career kicked off with a record-setting winning streak of 88 games at UCLA. He was selected as the first overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft and played with the Portland Trail Blazers from 1974 until 1979, winning the NBA Championship in 1977. He later played for the Los Angeles Clippers—then the San Diego Clippers—and the Boston Celtics, with whom he won his second NBA Championship.

Following his retirement from professional basketball, Walton had a successful career as a sportscaster for NBA and NCAA basketball games. He won an Emmy for his sportscasting in 1991. He was also known for his love of the Grateful Dead and hosted several radio shows dedicated to the band. In 2015, per the Washington Post, he said he attended over 850 Grateful Dead concerts.


"On behalf of everyone with the UCLA men's basketball program, we are deeply saddened to learn of Bill Walton's passing," said UCLA men's basketball coach, Mick Cronin. "My deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones. It’s very hard to put into words what he has meant to UCLA’s program, as well as his tremendous impact on college basketball. 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."

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