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Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton Dies at 71

Photo: Christian Petersen

Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton has died at the age of 71 "following a prolonged battle with cancer," the NBA announced in a news release on Monday (May 27).

Walton, a three-time national champion and national college player of the year at UCLA, was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 1 overall in the 1974 NBA Draft, lead the franchise to its only NBA title in history in 1977 and won the 1978 NBA MVP award during his first five seasons. The California native later played for the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers from 1979 to 1985 and the Boston Celtics from 1985 to 1988, which included winning his second NBA championship in 1986.

Walton retired in 1988 with 6,215 points, 4,923 rebounds and 1,590 assists. The former NBA star gained notoriety off the court for his larger than life, free-spirited personality, which shined through in his unique broadcasting style of both NBA and college basketball games in the years after his retirement.

"Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," said NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league's news release. "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. 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."

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