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UCLA legend and college basketball broadcaster Bill Walton passes away at age 71

Bill Walton UCLA college basketball
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May 28, 2024

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May 28, 2024

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a.patton@tegna.com

Bill Walton was a three-time National Player of the Year at UCLA, and a beloved figure in college basketball.

Just one day after the final regular season sporting event for his beloved Pac-12 conference, legendary UCLA basketball star Bill Walton passed away on Monday. He was 71 years old.

Walton is one of the greatest college basketball players of all-time, winning the National Player of the Year award three straight seasons while at UCLA from 1971-1974. His 44 points on 21-22 shooting against Memphis in 1973 remains the greatest individual performance in a national championship game ever, and his team’s 86-4 record while he was at UCLA speaks for itself.

But Walton was more than just a Hall of Fame basketball player. He was truly a larger than life personality, and his one of a kind spirit makes this loss feel a little heavier according to Locked On College Basketball co-host Andy Patton.

“I’ve been trying to figure out why this [loss] has been so impactful for me,” Patton said. “It’s hard to lose people who are so unique. I like knowing how Bill Walton thinks about things. I like seeing him analyze things…He never took himself too seriously and I think that’s why he endeared himself to a lot of people. He was just so authentically himself.”

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Walton’s career in the NBA resulted in an MVP award and leading the Portland Trail Blazers to their first and to date only NBA championship. Injuries unfortunately prevented him from playing at an elite level for long, but he became a quality bench player for the Boston Celtics in the 1980’s as well.

Walton eventually became known to a younger audience for his chaotic musings as a color commentator for ESPN and the Pac-12 Network. As a staple of Pac-12 after dark, Walton’s comedic rants and banter with his broadcast partners was truly a joy for fans to consume.

His passing coming one day after the final Pac-12 regular season sporting event – while tragic in some ways – is also poetic.

And that’s the way Bill would have wanted us all to see it.

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