It’s easy to limit the greatest of all time discussions to a few select names like Jordan or LeBron, but there are decades of incredible talent in the NBA prior to 1990, many of which should be in contention for the title. Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Irving, and even Bill Walton come to mind.
Walton is a story of what might’ve been. “Big Red,” as he was once called, may, in fact, deserve a spot on that short-list, but a career filled with foot injuries and problematic behavior off the court has limited his legend. Still, history remembers him as one of the greatest centers of all time. But that was long ago. Walton has been retired for more than two decades. How has his legend endured, and what is that legend worth today?
Big Red’s career
Walton got his start playing for the UCLA Bruins during the first half the ’70s where he established himself as a true basketball phenom. Walton won three College Player of the Year awards in a row during his time with the Bruins and took the team to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1972 and ’73.
In 1974, Walton became the no. 1 draft picked and was promptly selected by the Portland Trailblazers. Despite significant injuries late in his college career, Walton charged headlong into the NBA putting up significant numbers, despite a ridiculous amount of injuries that included a broken foot, broken wrist, sprained ankle, and dislocated toes. Walton managed to average nearly 13 points and 13 rebounds per game that initial season.
It wasn’t until 1977 that Walton and the Trailblazers hit their stride. Under new coaching direction from Jack Ramsay, the team exploded, winning the NBA championship. This was Walton in his prime. During their sweep of the Lakers during the playoffs, Walton was able to match Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stride for stride.
Walton’s injuries would continue to plague him, however. After his Cinderella season with the Trailblazers, Walton departed for the Clippers where he would spend the next six years putting up decent stats but little else.
In 1986, he landed on the Boston Celtics playing next to Larry Bird where he would close out his career with another championship title in 1986.
Bill Walton’s retirement and beyond
Walton was a great player, but he was far from perfect. During his UCLA days, he was known as much for his eccentricities, which included his strong stance on politics, with outspoken criticism of the Vietnam war, his disdain for authority figures, his long, red hair tied back into a ponytail, and his love for the Grateful Dead. Off the court, Walton was a man self-possessed, a character trait that would follow him well into retirement.
After retiring in 1987, Walton went to work in 1990 as a color commentator. He’s been featured on multiple networks including NBC, CBS, and ESPN over his long broadcasting career.
Walton, who suffered from a severe stutter until he was 28, was known for his goofy on-air demeanor, ability to engage in banter with his co-anchors, and a style that incorporated music and pop culture into his commentary.
Bill Walton’s net worth and second retirement
RELATED: What is Larry Bird’s Net Worth?
Walton was undoubtedly one of the best centers to play the game. His accomplishments across two different teams almost a decade apart can attest to that. But injuries, and a poor coaching environment mid-career, keep him just off people’s radar when discussing the GOAT.
Nowadays Walton is no longer chasing basketball dreams. His son Luke went on to play for the LA Lakers, winning two back-to-back NBA titles before coaching the team himself.
He is now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. In fact, all of Walton’s children have been athletes on the collegiate level at least, and Walton’s own brother, Bruce, played professional football for the Dallas Cowboys.
Residual pain from his on-the-court injuries has lead to struggles with depression and pain killer addiction, but Walton has overcome his-late in-life trials. He and his family are now living comfortably, having amassed a net worth of $20 million dollars, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com.
- All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference