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Bill Walton dies at 71: Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sports world react to Hall of Famer’s passing

Bill Walton dies at 71: Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sports world react to Hall of Famer's passing

Walton, a two-time NBA champion, died Monday following a battle with cancer

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Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton died Monday at the age of 71, according to an announcement from the NBA. Walton had been battling cancer.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind. As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a press release. “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 infections 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.”

Walton had a legendary career as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics. The star big man was originally selected with the No. 1 pick in the 1974 NBA Draft after a stellar collegiate career at UCLA. 

Walton ended up winning a pair of NBA titles in 1977 with the Trail Blazers and in 1986 with the Celtics. The Hall of Fame big man was named the NBA Finals MVP in 1977, when he helped the Trail Blazers defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in six games.

The former top pick also spent a lengthy career as a broadcaster as he became a fixture covering Pac-12 men’s basketball over the years.

Walton was a special personality that many basketball players and executives had an abundance of respect for. Sixers legend Julius Erving, former fellow UCLA great and Basketball Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and other sports figures paid tribute to Walton following his passing.

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