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Hall of Famer Bill Walton dies at 71

David Dow / National Basketball Association / Getty

Hall of Famer and two-time NBA champion Bill Walton died at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer, the league announced Monday.

Walton starred at UCLA in the 1970s, leading the Bruins to back-to-back undefeated seasons en route to a pair of national championships. The 6-foot-11 center was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player on both occasions and was a three-time Naismith College Player of the Year.

"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," Bruins head coach Mick Cronin said in a statement. "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."

The Portland Trail Blazers then took Walton with the No. 1 overall pick in 1974, and he quickly established himself as a two-way force.

In just his third NBA campaign, Walton finished second in MVP voting and led his peers in both rebounding and blocked shots during the 1976-77 season. That same year, he captured Finals MVP honors as he led the Blazers to their first and only championship.

Walton followed up that campaign with his lone MVP and All-NBA first-team nod. However, injuries began to take their toll on Walton, and he never recaptured his dominant form.

After four seasons in Portland, Walton split the remaining six seasons of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics. He had a significant role on the Celtics' 1986 championship squad, winning Sixth Man of the Year.

Walton transitioned to a successful broadcasting career for several networks following his playing days. He received an Emmy Award in 2001 for "Best Live Sports Television Broadcast."

"Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position. His unique all-around skills made him a dominant force at UCLA and led to an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships, and a spot on the NBA's 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.

"Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans."

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