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“At 28 I learned to speak.” What was Bill Walton like, whose death the entire NBA mourns?

Date: July 12, 2024 Time: 16:12:09

On May 27, basketball lost the man who brought glory to the sport for 10 seasons. For several more years he battled injuries, but did not give up and returned to the court each time. Bill Walton passed away at the age of 71 and, as is often the case, the famous athlete’s death reminded everyone that he was a person of historic proportions. Walton has earned legendary status at both the collegiate and professional levels. The statuesque center played for the UCLA Bruins of the University of California, Los Angeles and was recognized as the college player of the year for three seasons.


Bill Walton and Greg Lee, 1973

Photo: Getty Images

“Bill Walton was a legendary player, a fun and colorful broadcaster and, most importantly, a wonderful person. I fell in love with basketball watching Bill dominate at UCLA in front of a packed Poly Pavilion stadium. And I was lucky enough to meet him later, when he was covering the NBA as a television analyst. Above all, I will very much appreciate meeting him,” commented Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr about the death of the eminent player.

After a stellar career in the NCAA, Walton set out to conquer professional basketball, with its strict rules and lack of compromises found in college sports. The Portland Trail Blazers selected him first overall in the 1974 NBA draft. It only took Bill three seasons to lead the team to its first and only championship. Portland defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1977 Finals and Walton received the Finals MVP award. In the voting for the regular season MVP in his championship season, Bill took second place, but this trophy did not disappear from him: the leader of the Trail Blazers took it the following year.

Bill Walton, 1977

Photo: Getty Images

Walton’s illustrious career was cut short by a series of chronic foot injuries. During the 1977-78 season, in which he won the MVP award, he also suffered a broken leg. This happened during the regular season and Bill managed to return in the playoffs. However, he was injured again and did not play again in the postseason. The constant battle with injuries forced Walton to change his environment. The center left Portland and joined the San Diego Clippers (now the Los Angeles Clippers). In his first season with the new club, he played only 14 games. A repeated scaphoid fracture could finally end his sporting career. Bill missed the next two seasons and doctors vied with each other to say he could no longer play. But Bill did it. And little by little he even returned to his previous level.

In his debut season with the Boston Celtics, Walton was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year and helped the Celtics beat the Houston Rockets in the 1986 Finals. The following season, in which Bill played only 10 games, It was the last. In total, the center played 468 games during the regular season of his career, in which he averaged a double-double: 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, as well as 3.4 assists and 2.2 blocked shots . In addition to two championships and numerous awards, Walton participated in two All-Star Games, was named to the National Basketball Association’s first and second teams, and was named to the NBA’s anniversary teams dedicated to the league’s 50th and 75th anniversaries. And in 1993 he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

After professional basketball

Bill Walton and Ted Robinson, 2022

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After his NBA career, the legendary athlete took on a new challenge. Since childhood, Walton stuttered and then could not imagine that he would work in television. But giving in to difficulties was not his style. As with permanent fractures, Bill had to deal with a long-standing speech impediment: “In life, I was very shy, with red hair, a big nose, freckles, and a stupid nerd face. He couldn’t speak at all. I was incredibly shy and tried not to say a word. But then, when I turned 28, I learned to speak. This became my greatest achievement in life and everyone else’s biggest nightmare,” Bill said wryly in 2017.

Walton gave a lot to basketball. The work of the legendary center continued that of his son Luke, who was twice champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. And Shaquille O’Neal admitted that he became a better person thanks to Bill: “He criticized me and sometimes so much that I wanted to get physical. But then I started listening to him and other legendary greats, and that allowed me to grow as a player and as a person.”

In addition to sports, Walton’s acquaintances appreciated his personal qualities, and the words of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver demonstrate more than clearly the figure that world basketball has lost: “What I will remember most is his interest in life.” . He was constantly present at league events, always cheerful, smiling, sharing wisdom and warmth. He valued our friendship and envied his endless energy and ability to spend time with everyone he met along the way. “Bill will be remembered by all who knew and loved him.”

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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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