Today in sports history (1993), NBA legend Bill Walton was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. While he did finish his NBA career with two championships, an MVP and a Sixth Man of the Year award, Walton became initially known during his time at UCLA.
While in school, Walton had the opportunity to take over for the great Lew Alcindor. He exceeded expectations and took over where Alcindor left off at UCLA. Walton was selected number one overall in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. Looking for a franchise player, Walton immediately changed the trajectory of Portland basketball.
Bill Walton Wins MVP and One Championship with Portland
Walton was initially drafted by the Dallas Chaparrals of the ABA in 1973 in hopes of luring him away from the NBA. The UCLA big man said that he had no interest in playing in the ABA. In a premonition to the rest of his career, Walton suffered many injuries, delaying his prime. Those injuries included a sprained ankle, two broken wrists, two dislocated toes, two dislocated fingers, a broken toe and a leg injury suffered in a Jeep accident.
Walton’s first incredible season came in the 1976-77 season. He was surrounded by Maurice Lucas, Lionel Hollins and Bob Gross. Walton averaged 19, 14, 4 and three blocks. He was selected to the All-Star game but was unable to play due to injury. Walton and the Trail Blazers breezed through the Western Conference, losing just three games before the Finals. In the Finals, the Trail Blazers dropped the first two games to Philadelphia. Winning the next three games, Walton recorded 20 points and 23 rebounds, sealing game six and winning Portland their first championship.
The following season, Walton and the Blazers won 50 of their first 60 games. He then suffered a foot injury, ending his season. Even with the injury, Walton won the MVP award. He returned for the playoffs, but once again was injured as the Trail Blazers dropped their first-round series to Seattle. After the season, Walton demanded a trade. That trade was not granted and Walton refused to play, sitting out the entire 1979 season.
Bill Walton Wins One More Championship in Career with Boston
After his time in Portland came to end, Walton spent six seasons in San Diego, playing for the Clippers. Once again, Walton faced too many injuries and spent more time on the bench than on the court. After not winning many games, Walton opted to join a more successful team. Red Auerbach heard the testimonies of his players who favored having Walton back up Kevin McHale and Robert Parish and signed him.
On the Celtics, Walton acted as the sixth man, spelling McHale and Parish. In a somewhat even trade, Walton was sent to Boston in exchange for Cedric Maxwell and a pick that eventually became Arvydas Sabonis. He played 80 games in the 1985-86 season, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award. The Celtics also went on to win the Finals, cementing their name as one of the greatest teams in NBA history.
Walton ended up flaming out of the NBA once again due to a flurry of injuries. While his playing career could have probably yielded better results, he more than makes up for that with his commentating.