Dec 22, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; ESPN analyst Bill Walton during the game between the UCLA Bruins and the Maryland Terrapins at Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The basketball community is mourning the loss of one of one of its most unique players and personalities, with the NBA announcing that Bill Walton has passed away.

Walton’s death comes as the result of a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 71 years old.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement announcing Walton’s death. “As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position. His unique all-around skills made him a dominant force at UCLA and led to an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships and a spot on the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams. Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans. But what I will remember most about him was his zest for life. 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.

“As a cherished member of the NBA family for 50 years, Bill will be deeply missed by all those who who came to know and love him. My heartfelt condolences to to Bill’s wife, Lori; his sons, Adam, Nate, Luke and Chris; and his many friends and colleagues.”

After retiring from the NBA following a Hall of Fame — but injury-plagued — career, Walton seamlessly transitioned into the media, calling NBA and college games for CBS, NBC, the Los Angeles Clippers and ESPN/ABC. After leaving ESPN in 2009 as a result of back issues in 2009, he returned to call games Pac-12 games for the network in 2012 and continued to call games through this past season.

Among his accomplishments in broadcasting, Walton won a Sports Emmy for best live television sports telecast in 1991 and was also named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all-time by the American Sportscasters Association in 2009. Frequently working alongside play-by-play man Dave Pasch, the UCLA product was well known for his unorthodox broadcasting style and entertaining tangents and remained in peak form even while battling health issues this past year.


About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.