Obama praises basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton after his death from cancer at 71

By Jen Krausz on
 May 28, 2024

Former President Barack Obama honored basketball Hall of Fame player and broadcaster Bill Walton in a post on X after he died Monday of cancer at age 71.

“Bill Walton was one of the greatest basketball players of all time — a champion at every level and the embodiment of unselfish team play,” Obama wrote.

He added, "He was also a wonderful spirit full of curiosity, humor and kindness. We are poorer for his passing, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family."

A distinguished career

Under Coach John Wooden, Walton led the UCLA Bruins to back-to-back championships two years in a row.

He went on to win two more championships in the NBA, with the Portland Trailblazers in 1977 and with the Boston Celtics in 1986. He was also named league MVP in 1977 and 1978.

Injuries sidelined Walton more and more, and finally he retired and became a broadcaster for UCLA.

He excelled in the role, earning an Emmy Award and getting named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all time by the American Sportscasters Association.


“It’s very hard to put into words what he has meant to UCLA’s program, as well as his tremendous impact on college basketball,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said Monday. “Beyond his remarkable accomplishments as a player, it’s his relentless energy, enthusiasm for the game and unwavering candor that have been the hallmarks of his larger than life personality."

“As a passionate UCLA alumnus and broadcaster, he loved being around our players, hearing their stories and sharing his wisdom and advice," Cronin went on. "For me as a coach, he was honest, kind and always had his heart in the right place. I will miss him very much. It’s hard to imagine a season in Pauley Pavilion without him.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was “truly one of a kind.”

“I am sad today hearing that my comrade and one of the sports world’s most beloved champions and characters has passed,” Julius “Dr. J” Erving, a fellow Hall of Famer, wrote on social media. “Bill Walton enjoyed life in every way. To compete against him and to work with him was a blessing in my life.”

The Associated Press called him “one of the game’s most beloved figures.”



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