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Former NBA star and broadcaster Bill Walton has died at the age of 71

Bill Walton, who may have been one of the reddest players to ever grace a basketball court, sadly passed away this week at the age of 71. The Hall of Famer not only dominated the NBA stage, but also led UCLA to 73 straight victories. and successive national titles in the early 1970s.

After a long battle with cancer, the former player who became an important part of two world champion teams in Boston and Portland after a serious injury, finally died this Monday.

When he retired as an athlete, his status as a legend became stronger, earning two Emmys as a basketball commentator. In order to achieve this, he had to overcome a severe trauma, a stuttering that plagued him during the first 28 years of his life.

“I wish I had learned to speak when I was very young,” Bill told the media at the end of last year. “Nothing has changed my life like learning to speak. My greatest accomplishment, and your worst nightmare. I see everyone facing problems, challenges.”

Walton believes the first step is self-acceptance. “And when you stutter, it completely changes your life. Because you are always shy and lazy and shy. And you have to learn to overcome it. I am no longer ashamed of being a stutterer. I am no longer ashamed of being a stutterer. I am a person who stutters,” he said.

Also towards the end of his life, he became famous for his flamboyant lifestyle, and his unmistakable love of music, the Grateful Dead and his tie-dye shirts. When he left, he left behind many friends like co-host Dave Pasch.

“Bill and I had a special friendship,” the broadcaster said Monday on ESPN. He used to tell me a lot, he would take off the headset during the break and say to me, ‘I love you, but don’t tell anyone.’

His friend added: “He was just happy that I was his lover. He can be happy with me and just shoot me. I knew it was all part of the game, and in spirit we were very friendly. Bill paid for all the meals. I remember the last game I had with Bill was in Feb. 1 at USC. … We were talking a lot about the future. It was a conversation I will never forget.”

The former league MVP always showed gratitude to his teammates for his basketball career

Walton’s career, marked by numerous injuries, would not be the same without his teammates. The first pick in the 1974 NBA Draft, who led the Trail Blazers to their only title in 1976/77, he always showed appreciation for the love and motivation he received in his locker rooms.

“My teammates … made me a better basketball player than anything I could have ever been,” Bill said during his Hall of Fame speech. “The team spirit has always been the most exciting aspect of basketball for me. If I were interested in individual success or individual sports, I would have taken up tennis or golf.”

The 1977/78 league MVP battled foot injuries throughout his professional career and was limited to just 468 games in 10 campaigns, missing five of them, and missing four full seasons due to health issues.

Current UCLA head coach Mick Cronin tried to explain Walton’s importance to his school’s basketball program. “It’s very difficult to explain what he means to the UCLA program, and his tremendous impact on college basketball,” he said Monday.

“In addition to his incredible achievements as a player, his never-ending energy, passion for the game and unwavering eloquence were hallmarks of his larger-than-life personality. … It’s hard to imagine a season at Pauley Pavilion without him.”

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