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NBA Hall of Fame player dies at 71

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Bill Walton, who starred for John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins before becoming a Hall of Famer and one of the biggest stars in basketball broadcasting, died Monday, the league announced on behalf of his family.

Walton, who had a prolonged fight with cancer, was 71.

He was the NBA’s MVP in the 1977-78 season, a two-time champion as a player and a member of both the NBA’s 50th anniversary and 75th anniversary teams. That all followed a college career in which he was a two-time champion at UCLA and a three-time national player of the year.

“Bill Walton,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “was truly one of a kind.”

Walton, who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1993, was larger than life, on the court and off. His NBA career — disrupted by chronic foot injuries — lasted only 468 games with Portland, the San Diego and eventually Los Angeles Clippers and Boston. He averaged 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in those games, neither of those numbers exactly record-setting.

Still, his impact on the game was massive.

His most famous game was the 1973 NCAA title game, UCLA against Memphis, in which he shot an incredible 21 for 22 from the field and led the Bruins to another national championship.

“One of my guards said, ’Let’s try something else,” Wooden told The Associated Press in 2008 for a 35th anniversary retrospective on that game.

Wooden’s response during that timeout: “Why? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

12 takeaways from Bill Walton’s White Sox broadcasting debut, including how he’s ‘much better at getting high than getting low’

They kept giving the ball to Walton, and he kept delivering in a performance for the ages.

“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.

“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.”





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