Trail Blazers News: Championship Teammate Recalls Late Great Bill Walton

The Portland legend passed away from colon cancer on May 27.
Dec 1, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Pac-12 Network analyst Bill Walton  attends the NCAA basketball game between the UCLA Bruins and the Colorado Buffaloes at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 1, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Pac-12 Network analyst Bill Walton attends the NCAA basketball game between the UCLA Bruins and the Colorado Buffaloes at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame title-winning Portland Trail Blazers center Bill Walton sadly passed away on May 27 of colon cancer, at the far-too-young-to-us age of 71. The 6-foot-11 big man was the best player on Portland's lone championship squad, powering the team to the 1977 Larry O'Brien Trophy while netting the Finals MVP award in the process.

Former All-Star Portland point guard Lionel Hollins, a key comrade on the floor for Walton and one of the top talents on the team, spoke at length about his friendship with Walton and their time together as teammates, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

“It is a rough time, a sad time, a very shocking time,” Hollins said. “But it illuminates memories that we shared together for a long time.”

“He was a great teammate,” Hollins added. “He played to win. He elevated his teammates and made them better. He didn’t want the credit. He wanted to pass it on to the guys that he felt like deserved as much as him.”

Walton's Blazers career was cut tragically short by a stress fracture injury in his foot late into his 1977-78 season. He was performing at such a high level, Walton earned league MVP honors, despite only playing 58 contests. He averaged 18.9 points on 52.2 percent shooting from the floor, 13.2 rebounds, five assists, 2.5 blocks and one steal a night.

At his peak, he was a terrific and utterly unique two-way player, a ferocious defender and a stellar passer.

“He would have played 15-to-20 years and he would have had multiple MVPs, maybe multiple championships,” Hollins said. “And I’m sure if he hadn’t gotten hurt in Portland, we would have won a championship that second year [in 1978].”

Hollins concluded his remarks by taking a bigger-picture look at Walton the person, not just Walton the player.

“He was a great human being in terms of caring about people,” Hollins reflected. “People that didn’t look like him, people that didn’t live a lifestyle that he lived and have what he had. I would say that was going to be one of his legacies. All the people that he could find that he’s taken care of and done things for.”

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Alex Kirschenbaum

ALEX KIRSCHENBAUM

Clyde, Rick Barry, and Pistol Pete Now these players, could never be beat.