Dec 8, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; ESPN broadcasters Bill Walton (left) and Dave Pasch (right) during an NCAA basketball game between Notre Dame Fighting Irish and UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After a prolonged battle with cancer, Bill Walton passed away at 71 years old.

Truly one of a kind, the late Walton is universally beloved, highlighted by those in sports media sharing tributes to him after news of his passing reached social media. Everyone seems to have a Bill Walton story to share, including one of his now former colleagues at ESPN, Jay Bilas, and his longtime broadcast partner, Dave Pasch.

Bilas appeared on SportsCenter Monday afternoon, shortly after news of Walton’s untimely passing had surfaced. Having grown up in Southern California, an audibly emotional Bilas described how he grew up with Walton as an idol of his.

“I had a chance to work with him,” Bilas said while fighting back tears. “Just a genuine, beautiful person that always asked about you. And as much as he could talk endlessly and captivate everyone around the table with experiences from his life, that’s not what he was about. He was about asking you about yours, and he was genuinely interested.

“One of the most generous souls I’ve ever been around. Incredibly intelligent, well-read. I think a lot of people later in his career were captivated by his showmanship. And sometimes that overshadowed, I think, especially for the younger players that he covered, that he may have been the greatest college basketball player of all time. He was an all-time great pro, as well. Injuries certainly affected that, but there was no doubt that, as far as I’m concerned, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the two best centers that I’ve ever seen play.

“More than that, and I think eclipsing that, he was an absolutely magnificent, beautiful person that you just loved to be around at all times. A fabulous colleague who was more interested in his colleague’s success than his own. And that’s truly unique in this business.”

The thing about Walton is he was truly unique — he was one of one.

“Bill and I had a special friendship, and when you work closely with someone like we did for 12 years, even the NBA in my first year, though he still claims that never happened,” said Pasch. “He used to tell me a lot; he’d take the headset off during a commercial break and just say to me, ‘I love you, but don’t tell anybody.’ Because he just enjoyed the fact that I was a sparring partner and that he could have fun with me and just take shots at me. I knew that it was all part of the game and that, off the air, we had a great friendship.

“Bill paid for every meal. And I remember the last game I had with Bill was February 1st at USC. And it was rare that it was just the two of us. Usually, Lori (Bill’s wife) was there or Andy Hill or our producer, but it just happened to be Bill and I. We were kind of talking a lot about the future. And it was just a conversation I’ll never forget.”

Walton’s presence, whether on the court or in the broadcast booth, will be hard to forget. And Bilas and Pasch did a great job honoring him and reminding everyone of his incredible impact on the game of basketball and those around him.

[ESPN on X, SportsCenter on X]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.