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Bill Walton, a former basketball center known for his passing and rebounding skills, has passed away at the age of 71 due to cancer. A dedicated fan of the Grateful Dead, Walton won multiple national college championships with U.C.L.A. and played with both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Boston Celtics in the N.B.A. He was named the national college player of the year three times and had a standout performance in the 1973 national championship, scoring a record 44 points in U.C.L.A.’s victory over Memphis State. Known for his unique speaking manner, Walton’s career was plagued by injuries, with many questioning his potential if he had stayed healthy.

After his successful college career, Walton was selected first overall in the 1974 N.B.A. draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite facing criticism for his vegetarian diet, red ponytail, and beard, he won the 1977 championship under Coach Jack Ramsay. However, injuries continued to hamper his N.B.A. career, with Walton never playing more than 70 games in a season and missing several entire seasons due to various surgeries. Despite being named most valuable player in the 1977-78 season, he admitted that few people had seen his true potential due to his perpetual health issues.

Walton attributed his injury woes to his malformed feet, which led to a multitude of stress fractures and surgeries throughout his career. In his memoir, “Back From the Dead: Searching for the Sound, Shining the Light and Throwing It Down,” he recounted the toll his medical issues took on his ability to play basketball. Despite the setbacks, Walton remained philosophical about his career and the hand he was dealt with his physical health. His legacy as a talented player with immense potential, cut short by injuries, remains a topic of debate among basketball enthusiasts.

Throughout his career, Walton faced and overcame numerous challenges, including stuttering as a child and young athlete. He eventually became known for his loquacious broadcast commentary as a sports commentator. His unique speaking style and passionate views on basketball endeared him to fans and made him a respected voice in the sports media world. Despite his struggles with injuries and health issues, Walton’s impact on the game of basketball and his resilience in the face of adversity continue to be remembered by those who knew him and admired his career. A full obituary is expected to be released shortly to honor his life and contributions to the sport.

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