Busting Brackets

Former NBA, UCLA Basketball legend and broadcaster Bill Walton dies at 71

Bill Walton's legacy and impact on the game of basketball will live on forever.
Allstate Maui Invitiational - Day Two
Allstate Maui Invitiational - Day Two / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

On Monday, the basketball world lost an all-time great.

Legendary NBA center and broadcaster Bill Walton has passed away at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer. Walton played for three teams over the course of his 14-year career, leading the Trail Blazers to their first NBA title in 1977, and adding a second one with Larry Bird and the Celtics in 1986. Walton's success during his career earned him a spot on the NBA's 50th and 75th anniversary teams.

"What I will remember most about him was his zest for life, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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.

Prior to his professional career, Walton played college basketball for legendary coach John Wooden's UCLA Bruins and led them to consecutive championships in 1972 and 1973. His No. 32 now hangs in the rafters of Pauley Pavilion.

"It's very hard to put into words what he has meant to UCLA's program, as well as his tremendous impact on college basketball," UCLA coach Mick Cronin said Monday. "Beyond his remarkable accomplishments as a player, it's his relentless energy, enthusiasm for the game and unwavering candor that have been the hallmarks of his larger than life personality.

Following his playing days, Walton overcame a stuttering problem and ventured into the world of broadcasting, first calling NBA games for NBC and eventually moving on to college basketball with ESPN, commonly calling Pac-12 action for the network with play-by-play man Dave Pasch.

Though he wasn't everyone's favorite broadcaster, Walton's passion and love for Pac-12 basketball was very present in each broadcast he took part in, and often referred to the conference by its famous nickname - "The Conference of Champions."

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College basketball broadcasts won't be the same without Walton, but his colorful personality and impact on the sport will not soon be forgotten.