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YouTube Gold: The Portland Trailblazers And Bill Walton At The Peak Of Glory In 1977

At his finest, Walton approached Bill Russell’s level of greatness.

Portland Trail Blazers v Washington Bullets
LANDOVER, MD - CIRCA 1978: Bill Walton #32 of the Portland Trail Blazers passes the ball against the Washington Bullets during an NBA basketball game circa 1978 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Walton played for the Trail Blazers from 1974-78.
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

To a lot of people, Bill Walton is just an odd old man who says strange things on ESPN broadcasts and occasionally takes off his shirt for no particular reason while doing so.

But after a rocky start to his NBA career, Walton had a season for the ages in 1977. He was not just good; he was legitimately great. How great?

Much of his NBA legend was based on his performance in the NBA playoffs that season when he led Portland to a stunning upset of Philadelphia.

Bill Russell as a better defender. Wilt Chamberlain was a better scorer. Both were better rebounders.

But for that brief time, Walton played like a golden god. He blocked shots, passed briliantly and scored frequently - all within the team concept promoted by coach Jack Ramsey.

He did so brilliantly. His injury history makes him a controversial great, but what Walton did in the 1977 playoffs was to play center as well as anyone ever has. And he inspired his team to play at a level which is still celebrated.

When he helped the Boston Celtics win the title in 1986, he wasn’t the player he had been. He said once he failed the physical but Red Auerbach asked him if he could play and he said yes, he could.

And he did. Putting him on the same team with Larry Bird gave the basketball world a glimpse of two great geniuses of the game - and also a hint about what Walton might have done had he remained healthy.

But his play with Portland, particularly in 1977, was so astonishing that, despite his awful injury history, he is still regarded as one of the greatest talents ever to step foot on an NBA court.