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Bill Walton Won Championships At Every Level Of Basketball

Bill Walton
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Bill Walton Was A Winner Everywhere He Went

With Bill Walton passing away after a battle with cancer yesterday, we as a basketball community must celebrate his memory. Much of the younger generation may not know him or might only know of his broadcasting career. However, it’s time to put the greatness of Big Red in perspective. The former #1 pick in the 1974 NBA Draft won championships everywhere in the sport. He has an amazing legacy that was unfortunately robbed of even more due to injury.

High School Standout In California

Walton only played two varsity seasons in his hometown of La Mesa, California. However, he was nothing short of completely dominant. Over the course of two seasons, he led Helix High School to a 49-game winning streak and two consecutive state titles. In his senior year, growing up to 6-foot-11, he put up a 78.3 field goal percentage, which is still the all-time record today. Furthermore, grabbing 825 rebounds that season is the third-highest total by any high-school player.

His outstanding play for Helix caught a lot of attention as the years went on. One of the assistant coaches for John Wooden eventually began scouting Walton during his junior year. The hall-of-famer Denny Crum eventually labeled him as the best high school player he’s ever seen.

UCLA Greatness

There were arguably no greater shoes to fill at UCLA than those of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (in more ways than one). After an unprecedented college career for the Bruins, there was a big vacancy for a big man. Obviously, Bill Walton stepped up and put up an incredibly special run. He continued the dominance of the program and eventually helped build seven consecutive NCAA championships and 10 in 12 years for Wooden overall. To put it in perspective, he won 142 straight games from his junior year of high school to his senior year of college.

While freshmen were not eligible for the UCLA varsity team, he joined ahead of the 1971-1972 season and never looked back. Walton was the centerpiece of back-to-back championship teams. In four games over two separate Final Fours, he averaged 32.3 points and 15.3 rebounds as Wooden’s dynasty continued. If you’re keeping count, that is now four championships in high school and college that he was a major part of.

A True Pro

After joining the Portland Trail Blazers as the first pick in the 1974 draft, he battled injuries throughout his first four seasons. However, when he was on the court, Walton held his own as one of the best big men in the league. 1976-1977 became a masterpiece season for him and the Blazers. Playing 65 games, he led the league in rebounding and blocks per game as new head coach Jack Ramsay led them to the NBA Finals. Walton was outstanding against the 76ers, averaging 18.5 points, 19 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks and being named Finals MVP. It was one of the great Cinderella stories in NBA history that solidified #32 as an all-time great

Unfortunately, injuries continued to plague his career, as he only played in 14 games from 1978-1982. He was named league MVP for the 1977-1978 season with a career high scoring average of 18.9 points per game. Nearly a decade later, he was able to finally break through with the Boston Celtics in the 1985-1986 season. Playing in a career-high 80 games, he was a key part of the frontcourt and won the sixth man of the year award for one of the greatest teams in history. As history went on, the 86′ Celtics are celebrated as an all-time great team that won the NBA Championship over the Houston Rockets.

The great Bill Walton was a pioneer for the center position. His rebounding, determination, and leadership everywhere he went should be an example for young players everywhere. Above all else, he did what he loved and competed at the highest level.

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