Bill Walton’s Last Instagram Post Gave Nod to Rising Star Victor Wembanyama

Bill Walton

Getty NBA legend Bill Walton died at 71 after a bout with cancer.

The late Bill Walton gave a nod to one of the NBA’s most promising big men in Victor Wembanyama for a final Instagram post by the Hall of Famer who died on May 27.

Walton, 71, died after his bout with cancer, which followed a great basketball career as a player and broadcaster. His February 21 Instagram post showed him and Wembanyama conversing, and fans poured in tributes for Walton amid his death.

Walton was born in La Mesa, Calif., on Nov. 5, 1952, and he went on to have a storied college career at UCLA where he helped the Bruins win two national titles. The 6-foot-11 center played under legendary head coach John Wooden during that time from 1971 to 1974.

The Portland Trailblazers then took Walton with the No. 1 pick in the draft, and he led the team to the franchise’s lone title in 1977. Ongoing foot injuries slowed his career as he bounced from Portland to the then-San Diego Clippers and Boston Celtics.

Walton won one more title with the Celtics in 1986 and retired after the 1988 season. He became a basketball broadcaster soon after in 1990.

In his final Instagram post, Walton simply wrote the name of the promising NBA rookie fellow No. 1 draft pick Wembanyama. The San Antonio Spurs took the 7-foot-4 France native, and he won rookie of the year and led the league in blocked shots. He was widely regarded as the biggest NBA prospect since LeBron James.

Walton led the league in blocks once, 1977, amid his many other achievements. He also earned MVP in 1978, All-Star honors in 1977 and 1978, and Sixth Man of the Year in 1986.

Bill Walton Truly ‘One of a Kind’

Tributes that poured in included NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who released a statement on May 27.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” Silver wrote. “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.”

“What I will remember most about him was his zest for life,” Silver added. “Always upbeat, smiling ear-to-ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth.”

Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Pays Tribute to Bill Walton

Among the many former players who paid tribute to Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was quite familiar with Walton’s path to the NBA.

Abdul-Jabbar, 77, played for UCLA from 1966 to 1969 under Wooden before he became a No. 1 pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. A 7-foot-2 center, Abdul-Jabbar also became great friends with Walton, whose NBA careers overlapped.

“My very close friend, fellow Bruin and NBA rival Bill Walton died today,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote on X, formerly Twitter on May 27. “And the world feels so much heavier now. On the court, Bill was a fierce player, but off the court he wasn’t happy unless he did everything he could to make everyone around him happy. He was the best of us.”

Both Walton and Abdul-Jabbar had their UCLA jerseys retired — the first former Bruins to receive the honor.

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