Legendary American center Bill Walton passes away

LOS ANGELES (California) - American basketball legend Bill Walton has died after a battle with cancer. He was 71.

As famous a player that ever was in the USA, Walton led Helix High School in La Mesa, California, to 49 consecutive victories and a couple of state titles.

At 17 years of age, he was selected to play for USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 1970.

Bill Walton, second row, as a 17-year-old member of the USA World Cup team

Walton then played college basketball for John Wooden's UCLA, spearheading their run to a couple of NCAA titles.

Three times he was named NCAA Player of the Year.

Walton played for John Wooden at UCLA

Walton followed that with a long, albeit injury-plagued NBA career. He won two titles, the first with Portland in 1977 and the second with Boston in 1986. Walton was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

At his imposing best with the Trail Blazers in the 1977 NBA Finals, Walton was a colossus.

In the decisive Game Six against the Philadelphia 76ers, he poured in 20 points and yanked down 23 rebounds. He was named Finals MVP after averaging 18.5 points, 19.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.7 blocks.

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Nearly a decade later and after numerous injuries, Walton, after being traded by the Clippers, came off the bench with the Boston Celtics in 1986 and had such a good season that he was named as the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year. He then captured his second title with Boston and later wrote about it in his autobiography, Nothing But Net.

He wrote: "Aside from winning, my favorite moments on the court came when I was out there with Larry Bird. It's safe to say our styles were complementary."

For his part, Bird said Walton was as good as any player when healthy.

His coach at Portland, the late Jack Ramsey, sung the praises of Walton in an interview with the Oregonian in 2010.

"Walton could do everything," he said. "He had great timing, complete vision of the floor, had excellent fundamentals and was a great passer, both in outlet passes and in the half court. He loved playing basketball, just loved it, practices, games ... especially away games. He loved to win on the opponent's court. And he had a great head, a very dedicated team player."

Walton's connection to basketball didn't end after he retired in 1988. He got into basketball commentating and worked as an analyst.

Walton's four sons - Adam, Nate, Chris and Luke - all played basketball. The four competed in college while Luke also made it in the NBA and played 10 years in the league, winning the NBA title with the Los Angeles in 2009 and 2010. Luke Walton won an NBA crown as an assistant coach with Golden State in 2015 and then had stints as head coach of the Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. He has also worked as an assistant coach with Cleveland.

Main image credit: USA Basketball



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