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Bill Walton’s Unrivaled 1973 NCAA Championship Performance

Bill Walton
Bill Walton hitting a jumper in the 1973 NCAA Title Game. (Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Bill Walton dominated in a way we’ll probably never see again.

Tragic news broke this morning. NBA legend Bill Walton passed away from cancer at the age of 71. The Hall of Fame center left behind an incredible legacy, with multiple championships and awards under his belt. Let’s focus on the most impressive moment of his career, and one of the most impressive moments in sports history: his absolute domination in the 1973 NCAA Championship.

Let’s set the stage. As a matter of fact, Bill Walton and the 1972-1973 UCLA Bruins were on a campaign of terror in the NCAA. The Bruins had won six straight national titles heading into that season. To be sure, they were absolutely crushing their opponents. For instance, UCLA won their games by an average of 20 points during the 1972-1973 season. Above all, they went undefeated, ending their unrelenting offensive against college basketball that season 30-0 as part of an unbelievable 88-game win streak. Walton himself had an incredible year, averaging 20.4 PTS and 16.9 REB on 65% shooting. Unfortunately for the Memphis State Tigers, Walton saved the best for last.

Bill Walton unleashed on Memphis State in the NCAA Championship on March 26, 1973. He ended his night with 44 PTS and 13 REB on an absurd 21-22 shooting performance. Furthermore, over 50 years later, his record for points in an NCAA championship game still stands. It’s a feat that we will probably never see replicated.

Of course, Walton would carry over his skills with him to the NBA. He was an integral part of two NBA titles, one with the Portland Trailblazers in 1977 and again with the Boston Celtics in 1987. His performance in 1977 earned him Finals MVP honors. He followed up with a league MVP award in 1978, despite ending his season early with a broken foot. His love for the sport earned him a reputation as a tough, dedicated player. He said he “had no desire to ever stop playing”, and “ground his feet up into dust” as a result of his commitment.

Sadly, the timing of his passing adds an extra layer of sentiment. The Boston Celtics take on the Indiana Pacers tonight. Certainly, this will be an emotional game four of the 2024 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. If the Celtics win, they’ll complete the sweep and send themselves to the finals for the second time in three years. Surely, this is something Bill Walton would have loved to see.

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