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YouTube Gold: Bill Walton - Was He A Great?

A healthy Bill Walton was right there with Russell, Chamberlain and Jabbar.

Portland Trail Blazers v New YorK Knicks
 NEW YORK - CIRCA 1976: Bill Walton #32 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks to shoot over Spencer Haywood #42 of the New York Knicks during an NBA basketball game circa 1976 at Madison Square Garden in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Walton played for the Trail Blazers from 1974-78.
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

If you’re passionate about something, you really should know what the history is.

In basketball, the greatest players are generally understood to be guys like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. You can put together your own list but it won’t be all that different.

But when you start looking at certain other guys, it’s harder to tell where they fit. For instance, take Bill Walton.

Injuries and poor medical care robbed his career of years of potential greatness: technically, it lasted for 14 seasons, but Walton only played about six seasons worth of games.

But was he a great?

Not in terms of endurance, but when he was on the court, he was truly, truly spectacular. He didn’t lose between his junior season in high school and his senior year in college. The run he made with Portland, in 1977, was breathtaking. And then he got a redemption year with the Boston Celtics in 1986 when he was healthy for long enough to help Larry Bird & co. to win a title (the next fall he injured his foot again - on an exercise bike).

At his best, he was an Olympian of the game, but it was so rare. But those glimpses are something else again.