Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley and the rest of the "Inside the NBA" crew paid tribute to Bill Walton after his passing. Photo Credit: TNT Inside the NBA honors Bill Walton. Photo Credit: TNT

The NBA world lost one of its most beloved and legendary figures on Monday with the passing of Bill Walton, a longtime player and commentator.

On Tuesday, ahead of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks, the Inside the NBA crew paid tribute to the late Hall of Famer.

Reggie Miller who, like Walton, is a UCLA alum, was on hand to call the game for TNT. He recalled talking with Walton during three different points of his career.

One was when he (Miller) was attending UCLA. At roughly the same time, Walton was winding down his NBA career with the Boston Celtics, during the heart of the Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers — and Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson — rivalry.

“To have him tutor us, talk to us about life lessons, what those series were all about,” Miller recalled. He then immediately shifted to his NBA career, when Bird was coaching the Indiana Pacers. Walton was around the Pacers a lot then, interacting with Bird and another former teammate, then Pacers assistant coach Rick Carlisle.

“You see a lot of those shots — a lot of those shots, where he was signing autographs, were at Gainbridge because he was there so much around Larry and around us,” Miller recalled. “Just to give those life lessons.”

Finally, Miller recalled that after his career, his relationship with Walton grew even tighter as the two bonded over their mutual love of cycling.

“He was a huge cyclist,” Miller said. “A lot of races together. We used to talk about equipment. So, yes, it’s a loss. But for Bruin Nation, he was so colorful, there were so many layers to him, which a lot of people didn’t understand. So many different layers, which was very unique.”

Charles Barkley also honored Walton, saying he was “Great at basketball, great in life and great as a broadcaster,” adding “I’ve never seen a person who was more joyful to be around, who was always in a good mood.”

“The world is not as good of a place as it was yesterday,” Barkley said. The world was better for having Bill Walton in it and it’s not as good a place as it was. We lost a legitimate person. Obviously our basketball hearts are heavy. But the world was not as good a place as it was yesterday, because we lost Bill Walton.”

Shaquille O’Neal also honored Walton, calling him “One of the forefathers of the Big Man Alliance,” along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Shaq also recalled that his relationship with Walton was not always great, calling it an “up-and-down relationship,” even using that phrase when he called Walton’s son, Luke Walton, to offer his condolences. But Shaq then explained what the issue was saying, “It was up-and-down because I was sensitive.”

“What I call, the things I’m doing to all the big men now, Bill, all those guys, Kareem, they were doing it to me. It’s called the Big Man Rites of Passage,” Shaq recalled.

He also recalled times when he was particularly frustrated with Walton, even wanting to make it physical. But it lesson from his mother, Dr. Lucille O’Neal, changed his perspective.

“A lot of times, he would criticize me, he would criticize me. And I was so mad one time, I wanted to put hands on him. But the beautiful Dr. Lucille said, ‘Son, when people criticize, see if there’s some truth inside of that criticism.’ So all the things I was doing, not really focusing on basketball, I had to listen to what these legends said. Because if you want to become a legend, shouldn’t you listen to a legend before you?”

He also recalled seeing Walton a year ago and things were on much better terms.

“I saw Bill last year at the Final Four. We hugged. He told me he just wanted to make me better…Luke, the rest of  your family, my condolences go out. I’m definitely gonna miss him. He was hard on me and I’m glad he was hard on me. Me, growing up the way I was raised, I’m not soft. It just made me who I am today. Thank you for help forming the Big Man Alliance. We’re gonna miss you, Big Man.”

[Photo Credit: TNT]

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