Benztown Honors Sportscaster Bill Walton


Walton was one of the most decorated college basketball players in history, leading UCLA to back-to-back NCAA titles as a sophomore and junior (1972 and 1973), culminating in a string of seven consecutive NCAA championships won by the Bruins from 1967 through 1973. He was a charter member of the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993, after playing in the NBA from 1974-87.

Walton grew up in San Diego and attended Helix High School, and went on to play for legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden as the Bruins’ starting center for three seasons (1972-74). Playing at UCLA before freshmen student-athletes could compete on the varsity squad, Walton starred on UCLA’s freshman team in 1970-71. Walton played on UCLA’s only varsity teams to record back-to-back perfect 30-0 seasons in 1972 and 1973, helping the Bruins compile an 86-4 overall record in three years. His UCLA teams won their first 73 games, as the Bruins had extended their winning streak to 88 consecutive games (the NCAA men’s basketball record). During his three varsity seasons, the Bruins went 49-0 in Pauley Pavilion, as part of a 98-game home winning streak that spanned the 1970-71 through 1975-76 basketball seasons.

Walton played 10 seasons in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers, the San Diego Clippers (and Los Angeles Clippers) and the Boston Celtics. He helped lead Portland to the 1977 NBA title, finishing second in the league’s MVP voting that year. He was honored as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 1978, his fourth year in the league with Portland. In an NBA career in which he battled multiple injuries, Walton returned as a key player with the Boston Celtics in the mid-1980s. He helped Boston win the 1986 NBA Finals in a six-game series victory over the Houston Rockets.

In the years following his NBA career, Walton became a sports broadcaster, serving as both a studio analyst and a color commentator. He was also involved with multiple charitable and philanthropic organizations, clinics, and camps. More recently, he worked courtside as a color commentator for ESPN and Pac-12 Network college basketball broadcasts. He regularly served on broadcast crews in Pauley Pavilion, and in multiple other Pac-12 basketball venues. Walton started his sports broadcasting career in 1990 as an analyst for the Prime Ticket Network. In addition, he worked for CBS Sports in the early 1990s and later for NBC, including coverage of the Olympic Games in 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney). He joined ESPN and ABC as an NBA analyst in 2002.

He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Lori, their four sons and three grandchildren.

The Benztown Audio Tribute to Bill Walton was written and produced by Peter Murphy, and voiced by Darren Silva.