Celtics pay tribute to 1986 champion Bill Walton before Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Dallas


BOSTON (AP) — Bill Walton only spent one full season with the Boston Celtics. His impact was unforgettable.

The franchise paid tribute to the sixth man on their 1986 championship team before Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. Walton’s family was in the crowd for a pregame moment of silence that was interrupted by a fan yelling, “We love you, Bill!”

“Bill was a champion at every level and the embodiment of unselfish team play,” the public address announcer said, while both the Celtics and Mavericks players applauded. “He derived great joy from basketball and music, and deeply cherished his moments with teammates and friends. We are proud to call him one of the greatest Celtics who ever lived.”

Walton, who died on May 27 at the age of 71, was a three-time national player of the year at UCLA, leading the Bruins to the NCAA championship in 1972 and ’73 during a record 88-game winning streak. He was the runner-up for NBA MVP in 1977, when the Trail Blazers won the NBA title, and won the award the next year.

He also played four seasons for the Clippers – and missed three others with foot injuries – before arriving in Boston in 1986, giving the Celtics enough to push them past the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals for the franchise’s unprecedented 16th championship.

He was limited to 10 games the following season by foot injuries and retired before going on to a successful second career as a broadcaster — and Grateful Dead follower. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

The Celtics nodded to his Deadheadedness by coming out in black shooting shirts that said “Walton” with a tie-dye background; team staff wore pins with a similar design. The players’ jerseys had a black band with Walton’s name on the shoulder.


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