Bill Walton had more fun playing and broadcasting basketball than any other player in the game.

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FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2020, file photo, the NBA logo is displayed at center court during an NBA first-round playoff basketball game between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. NBA training camps open around the league Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020,though on-court sessions will be limited to individual workouts and only for those players who have gotten three negative coronavirus test results back in the last few days. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Having had the honor and pleasure of working with Bill Walton on television broadcasts, I can say that no one enjoyed breaking down a game more than he did. He is truly one-of-a-kind. Regardless of the subject—whether it’s history, politics, rock and roll, or basketball—Bill possesses an incredible ability to engage in insightful and enthusiastic conversation.

His passion for UCLA and college basketball was unparalleled, and fans adored him for his candid honesty and genuine pleasure in analyzing a game from the courtside. Larger than life, not just because of his nearly 7-foot stature, Walton was a two-time NCAA champion with UCLA, a two-time NBA champion, an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and an icon on the court in every sense.

He passed away on Monday morning at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer, as announced by the league on behalf of his family. He was the NBA’s MVP for the 1977-78 season, the league’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1985-86, and a member of the league’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams. His professional achievements followed a stellar college career at UCLA under coach John Wooden, where he was a three-time national player of the year.

As the Celtics celebrated their second NBA Finals appearance in three years, Walton was at the forefront of their thoughts. Wyc Grousbeck, the team owner, received the Bob Cousy Trophy for the Eastern Conference Championship and dedicated it to Walton.

Walton’s tenure with the Celtics spanned from 1985 to 1988, during which he earned the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1986, the year Boston clinched the championship. That victory marked his second and last championship ring. Walton’s career concluded in 1990 due to injury.

Since Walton’s time, the Celtics have secured only one NBA Championship, which was in 2008 against the Lakers, featuring Walton’s son, Luke. This marks their fourth journey to the NBA Finals since then, as they aim to expand their collection of trophies.

Jim Williams has been covering sports media and the business side of sports for nearly 45 years. He was a featured columnist for the Washington and San Francisco Examiner Newspapers for ten years and has contributed regularly to Sports Business Journal, Forbes, Playboy, and Newsweek.

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