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Bill Walton got new life when the Boston Celtics traded for him before the 1985-86 season. The oft-injured center could no longer carry a team. He knew he could be a key piece to a championship puzzle, and the Celtics were the perfect match.

The Celtics took a risk, sending veteran forward Cedric Maxwell and a first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for Walton. When Walton arrived in Boston, M.L. Carr picked him up at the airport. Instead of heading to the Boston Garden to check out his new home, Walton asked to take a detour.

Bill Walton needed to speak with Robert Parish before settling in with the Boston Celtics

Bill Walton of the Boston Celtics gets position on Buck Williams of the New Jersey Nets during an NBA game circa 1986 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

When Walton got word of his trade to the Celtics, he was ecstatic. He had won a championship during the early part of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. He was also named MVP during the 1977-78 season. After that season, he played 14 games in the next four years. He said getting a chance with a championship-caliber team was just what he needed.

“The Celtics didn’t give me my career back. They gave me my life back,” Walton told Michael McClellan of Celtic Nation back in 2018. “To be able to go from the bottom to the top in one plane ride was just staggering. I had early success in my career, but the endless string of injuries destroyed everything. The Celtics gave me a chance to be a part of something special, which has always been my dream in life.”

The Celtics already had the best frontcourt in the league with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. Walton knew he was coming in to back up Parish, Boston’s All-star center. He wanted to have a face-to-face meeting with the man they called “Chief” as soon as possible.

“Meeting with Robert Parish was the very first thing that I did when I arrived in Boston. When I got off of the airplane, M.L. Carr was there to pick me up. M.L. wasn’t going to be on the team that season because he’d transitioned to something else, but he was still part of the Celtic family. We hadn’t left the airport yet. I said, ‘M.L., take me over to Chief’s house, I’ve got to talk to him.’”

Bill Walton

“I went over to his house, and I looked at him, and I said, ‘Robert, I just want you to know that I’m only here to help you. I’m not here to take anything from you. I’m here to add to what you’ve already done, to what you’re currently doing, and to what you are going to do.’ I’m a team guy. That’s what I’m all about. I needed Robert to hear that come from me personally because that’s the way a team is supposed to work. And Robert could not have been nicer. It was so fun to play with him. I love that guy so much.”

Walton proved to be that perfect piece to the puzzle


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Walton filled his role to perfection. He spelled Parish and/or McHale and played 80 games that year, the most he’d ever played in one season. He averaged 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19.3 minutes, earning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year honors.

The Celtics cruised through the regular season and postseason, losing just one game at home. They knocked off the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals for their third championship of the decade.

“It was a championship team before I ever got there,” Walton told McClellan. “I was just lucky to be in a Celtics uniform. My job was to remind the guys of what the schedule was. K.C. Jones would put a variety of combinations out there. Sometimes he would have Larry, Kevin, and Chief on the court doing their thing.

“And then it might be Larry, Kevin, and me, or Robert, Kevin, and me. He also had Scott Wedman, who was a fantastic talent coming off the bench. Everybody could do everything, including think. There were a lot of interchangeable parts.”

Walton said it felt like family playing in Boston.

“We had a great team, and we loved each other,” Walton said during a 2020 interview with Brian Scalabrine. “We loved the way we played, and we knew we could get the job done. We’ll take our chances. We’ll take our chances anywhere against anybody, anytime. We had it all. We had size, strength, power, finesse, skill, discipline, talent.

“And at the end of the day, we had Red Auerbach, K.C. Jones, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and nobody else did.”