UCLA Mourns the Loss of Iconic Hall of Famer Bill Walton


Former UCLA men’s basketball two-time NCAA Champion Bill Walton has passed away at the age of 71 following a prolonged battle with cancer, as announced by the NBA on Monday morning. He was surrounded by his family.


Walton, among the most decorated college basketball players of all-time, led UCLA to back-to-back NCAA titles as a sophomore and junior (1972, 1973), culminating in a string of seven consecutive NCAA championships won by the Bruins from 1967 through 1973. He was a charter member of the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993, after playing in the NBA from 1974-87.


Walton, who grew up in San Diego and attended Helix High School, played for legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden as the Bruins’ starting center for three seasons (1972-74). Playing at UCLA before freshmen student-athletes could compete on the varsity squad, Walton starred on UCLA’s freshman team in 1970-71. Walton played on UCLA’s only varsity teams to record back-to-back perfect 30-0 seasons in 1972 and 1973, helping the Bruins compile an 86-4 overall record in three years. His UCLA teams won their first 73 games, as the Bruins had extended their winning streak to 88 consecutive games (the NCAA men’s basketball record). During his three varsity seasons, the Bruins went 49-0 in Pauley Pavilion, as part of a 98-game home winning streak that spanned the 1970-71 through 1975-76 basketball seasons.


“On behalf of everyone with the UCLA men’s basketball program, we are deeply saddened to learn of Bill Walton’s passing,” said Mick Cronin, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach. “My deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones. 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. 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. As a passionate UCLA alumnus and broadcaster, he loved being around our players, hearing their stories, and sharing his wisdom and advice. For me as a coach, he was honest, kind, and always had his heart in the right place. I will miss him very much. It’s hard to imagine a season in Pauley Pavilion without him. Our athletics department, our team and this university will miss him dearly.” 


Selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, Walton concluded his collegiate career in Westwood having broken multiple school records. A three-time All-Pac-8 selection (1972-74), Walton was honored as a consensus first-team All-America selection in all three varsity seasons. To this day, he ranks among the top 10 leaders in program history in multiple statistical categories. He stands No. 1 on UCLA’s career rebounding list (1,370) and ranks No. 13 in career points scored (1,767). Walton also earned Academic All-America acclaim all three years on the varsity team (1972-74).


“We are stunned and saddened about the news of Bill Walton’s passing,” said Martin Jarmond, UCLA’s Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics. “Bill represented so many of the ideals that our university holds dear and embodied multiple traits on Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. He loved being back on campus at UCLA, calling games in Pauley Pavilion, and being around our teams. We offer our deepest sympathy to his family, and we take solace in knowing that Bill made each day his masterpiece.”


Walton and former UCLA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known in college as Lew Alcindor) became the first two UCLA men’s basketball players to have their jersey numbers retired. Walton, who wore number 32 during his UCLA career, was honored along with Abdul-Jabbar and former UCLA women’s basketball standouts Ann Meyers-Drysdale and Denise Curry at halftime of the UCLA men’s basketball game against DePaul on Feb. 3, 1990. The halftime ceremony was a key moment during the school’s “Pauley at 25” celebration during the 1989-90 season and marked the first time in which any UCLA basketball players had their jersey numbers retired. Since then, UCLA has retired the jersey numbers of 10 former men’s basketball players


Walton played 10 seasons in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers, the San Diego Clippers (and Los Angeles Clippers) and the Boston Celtics. He helped lead Portland to the 1977 NBA title, finishing second in the league’s MVP voting that year. He was honored as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 1978, his fourth year in the league with Portland. In an NBA career in which he battled multiple injuries, Walton returned as a key player with the Boston Celtics in the mid-1980s. He helped Boston win the 1986 NBA Finals in a six-game series victory over the Houston Rockets.


In the years following his NBA career, Walton turned to sports broadcasting and was involved with multiple charitable and philanthropic organizations, clinics, and camps. He served as both a studio analyst and color commentator. More recently, he worked courtside as a color commentator for ESPN and Pac-12 Network college basketball broadcasts. He routinely served on broadcast crews in Pauley Pavilion, in addition to multiple other Pac-12 basketball venues.


Walton started his sports broadcasting career in 1990 as an analyst for the Prime Ticket Network. In addition, he worked for CBS Sports in the early 1990s and later for NBC, including coverage of the Olympic Games in 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney). He joined ESPN and ABC as an NBA analyst in 2002.


Walton is survived by his wife of 33 years, Lori; his four sons, Adam, Nathan, Luke and Chris; and his three grandchildren, Olivia, Avery Rose and Chase.



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