Bill Walton, NBA star and basketball broadcaster, dies at 71

Walton won two NBA championships and was widely considered one of the best broadcasters in the history of the sport.

Bill Walton, an NBA MVP and beloved sports broadcaster, has died. He was 71 years old.

Walton died Monday following a prolonged battle with cancer, according to the NBA, who announced the news on behalf of his family.

"Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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."

Silver's statement continued: "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. He was a regular presence at league events – always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. I treasured our close friendship, envied his boundless energy and admired the time he took with every person he encountered."

<p>Ethan Miller/Getty</p> Bill Walton

Ethan Miller/Getty

Bill Walton

Silver concluded, "As a cherished member of the NBA family for 50 years, Bill will be deeply missed by all those who came to know and love him. My heartfelt condolences to Bill’s wife, Lori; his sons, Adam, Nate, Luke and Chris; and his many friends and colleagues."

Walton first broke out as a college basketball star, taking the UCLA Bruins to two national titles before going on to win two national championships in the NBA. Following his relatively short-lived professional career, he transitioned to broadcasting, where he earned legions of new fans.

He was named the NBA MVP in the 1977-78 season and was a member of both the NBA's 50th anniversary and 75th anniversary teams. In 1993, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

William Theodore Walton III was born on Nov. 5, 1952 in La Mesa, Calif. Suffering from stuttering and shyness, Walton found refuge in basketball.

After an illustrious high school career, he was recruited by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Walton played for the Bruins from 1971 to 1974, leading them to two consecutive national championships that followed perfect seasons. Walton also helped the Bruins secure their record-holding NCAA basketball winning streak, winning an astounding 88 straight games. He also won three consecutive national player of the year awards.

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Following his stint at UCLA, Walton became the first overall pick of the 1974 draft, going to the Portland Trail Blazers. He played 10 seasons in the NBA, winning championships with the Blazers in 1977 and the Celtics in 1986. He only played 468 games total, his career often hampered by chronic foot injuries. In spite of that, he was a two-time NBA All-Star, leading the league in rebounding and blocks in 1977.

Walton transitioned to broadcasting following his career on the court, beginning with CBS in 1990. He worked for NCAA on CBS, NBC, the Los Angeles Clippers, ABC and ESPN over the course of his career. He began as a lead analyst for NBA games before switching to college basketball in 2012, becoming a full-time analyst for ESPN and the PAC-12 network for PAC-12 basketball.

In 2001, he won an Emmy for Best Live Sports Television Broadcast, and in 2009, he was named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all time by the American Sportscasters Association.

Walton was a massive fan of the Grateful Dead and even hosted his own satellite radio show, One More Saturday Night, dedicated to their music.

He also had a brief film career, appearing in the movies 88 and 1, Ghostbusters, Celtic Pride, Little Nicky, and Semi-Pro. Walton also got a shoutout from his fellow Bruins basketball star, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in the 1980 comedy Airplane!.

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He released a memoir, Back from the Dead: Searching for the Sound, Shining the Light and Throwing It Down, in 2016.

Walton is survived by his wife, Lori, and his four sons by his first wife, Susie; Chris, Nate, Adam, and Luke. Luke played for the Los Angeles Lakers and won two titles, making him and Walton the first-ever father and son pair to win multiple NBA championships.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.