Most people today know Bill Walton as the uh, eccentric broadcaster with ESPN who might riff on the Grateful Dead, tsunamis and the history of the ukulele in Hawaii.
You just never know where he’s going and that’s part of his charm.
But before he was a celebrated oddball, Walton was an incredible basketball player. He won championships at UCLA, with the Portland Trailblazers and the Boston Celtics.
That UCLA had Bill Walton just two years after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just seems wildly unfair. He was not at all the same sort of center Jabbar was though. Jabbar was a supreme talent but his greatest and most consistent weapon was the skyhook.
Walton, on the other hand, relied on more basketball skills than a big man of his era typically had (and more than many today too).
His fundamentals were impeccable. He shot well and rebounded well. He was a very good defender and one of the best passing big men of all time.
A crumbling body robbed Walton of his greatness early but with Portland, he looked and played like a Greek God. With Boston, he was a valuable reserve who was an unbelievable complement to Larry Bird.
Yet his greatest moment was at UCLA in the 1973 Finals where Walton hit 21 of 22 shots for 44 points. He also had 13 rebounds, two assists and a block.
It is still arguably the greatest championship performance in NCAA history.