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YouTube Gold: Bill Walton’s Genius

No, not as a broadcaster

Portland Trail Blazers v Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Walton in his Portland Trailblazer days

People today know Bill Walton as the flaky old dude on ESPN who drones on about the conference of champions, the Grateful Dead and philosophical ramblings of one sort or another, mixed in with a playful combativeness with his broadcast partner (you get a sense of the man’s intensely competitive nature from those exchanges. This is a guy who is still upset about losing to Notre Dame and breaking UCLA’s 88-game win streak and then falling to NC State in the 1974 Final Four).

He’s a weird case in the pantheon because his greatness was concentrated about a two-year span. The rest of his career? Mostly injured. When he was with Boston, Walton managed to injure himself on a stationary bike. The guy was more or less cursed.

But at his best, he was as good as any big man who ever lived. He didn’t win championships at the level Bill Russell did. He wasn’t as dominant as Wilt Chamberlain was.

But he was the most fundamentally sound big man ever and, like the greatest players, he was obsessed with winning. This video really focuses on his passing and defense, which were both elite.

He was really fortunate to finish his career with Boston, where his idol Russell played, and where Walton was an immense contributor to the 1986 title team, considered by many to be the greatest NBA team of all time.