Bill Walton has passed away at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer, the NBA announced on Monday. Walton, who was a 2-time NBA champion, a 2-time NCAA champion, and a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, was surrounded by his family.

In recent years, Walton was known for his infectious personality and unbridled optimism as one of the most colorful commentators on ESPN’s family of networks. But during his playing career, Walton was an absolute force. He was a 3-time Naismith Award winner for John Wooden’s UCLA teams in the 70s.

From 1971-73, UCLA went 60-0 to capture what were the program’s sixth and seventh consecutive national championships. Walton featured on those last 2 title-winning teams, scoring 21 points and grabbing 16 boards a game as a sophomore and then scoring 20 points with 17 boards a game as a junior.

As a senior, Walton played through a nasty back injury when UCLA’s 88-game winning streak came to an end on Jan. 19, 1974. The Bruins also saw their record title streak end when NC State upset them in double-overtime at the Final Four. Walton played 50 minutes in the game, scoring 29 points with 18 rebounds and 4 assists.

Walton was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1974 NBA Draft. He spent 14 seasons in the NBA with the Blazers, the San Diego (and later Los Angeles) Clippers, and the Boston Celtics.

In 1977, Walton led the NBA in blocks and rebounds while placing on the All-Defensive First Team and the All-NBA Second Team. He helped the Blazers come back from an 0-2 hole in the 1977 NBA Finals to win his first title and claim the Finals MVP award.

The following season, Walton was named league MVP after averaging 18.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2.5 blocks a game. Portland won 50 of its first 60 games before Walton suffered a foot injury that derailed the rest of his season. During the ensuing offseason, Walton asked for a trade, citing unethical and incompetent treatment of his and other players’ injuries by the Blazers. The Blazers refused to move him and he sat out the 1979 season in protest. He signed with the Clippers as a free agent the following offseason.

Walton’s Clippers career was rocky, with just 14 appearances in his first 3 seasons with the club due to repeated foot issues. In 1985, Walton was traded to the Boston Celtics. That first season, he was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, serving as the primary backup behind Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. Boston beat Houston 4-2 in the 1986 NBA Finals as Walton captured his second NBA ring.

Walton retired from the NBA after the 1988 season with 2 All-Star selections, 2 All-NBA selections, 2 All-Defensive Team selections, an MVP award, a Finals MVP award, and 2 championship rings. In 2021, he was selected to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.

“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. But what I will remember most about him was his zest for life. He was a regular presence at league events – always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. I treasured our close friendship, envied his boundless energy and admired the time he took with every person he encountered.”

Walton and former UCLA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the first 2 UCLA men’s basketball players to have their jersey numbers retired. Walton’s No. 32 jersey was also retired in Portland.

“On behalf of everyone with the UCLA men’s basketball program, we are deeply saddened to learn of Bill Walton’s passing,” said UCLA coach Mick Cronin. “My deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones. 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. 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. 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. Our athletics department, our team and this university will miss him dearly.”

Walton is survived by his wife of 33 years, Lori; his four sons, Adam, Nathan, Luke, and Chris; and his three grandchildren, Olivia, Avery Rose, and Chase.