UCLA Legend Bill Walton Tragically Passes Away

One of basketball's most iconic figures passed away on Monday.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Walton, one of the best basketball players to ever play the game, and one of the biggest personalities in it, passed away on Monday, according to an official release by the NBA. After a prolonged battle with cancer, the 71-year-old basketball icon died surrounded by his family.

NBA News: Bill Walton Passes Away at Age 71

Bill Walton first burst onto the scene at UCLA, winning three straight national College Player of the Year awards. He won back-to-back NCAA titles and Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards in 1972 and 1973. His No. 32 jersey was retired by the Bruins.

His dominance at UCLA earned him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft. He continued his success in the NBA, winning a championship in 1977, and becoming the league MVP in 1978. He was as complete of a center as the league had ever seen. Not only could he defend, rebound, and score, but he also revolutionized the position with his incredible passing ability.

Unfortunately, Walton's dominance in the NBA was short-lived because of consistent foot and ankle injuries. After his first four seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Walton struggled to stay on the court. Between 1978 and 1982, he was only able to appear in 14 games. Yet, he was able to rediscover himself as a bench player in the later years of his career and helped the Boston Celtics win the 1986 championship while winning the Sixth Man of the Year award.

More than his basketball ability, however, Walton left a mark with his bigger-than-life personality. After his retirement from the game, he became a consistent figure in the NBA with his positive attitude, endless love for the game, and infectious joy. He will be remembered fondly.