Basketball legend Bill Walton's lasting legacy as a Portland Trail Blazer

Bill Walton passed away at the age of 71. He left an enormous mark on the basketball world, especially for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland Trail Blazers v New York Knicks
Portland Trail Blazers v New York Knicks / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Bill Walton, legendary basketball player, broadcaster, and person, passed away on May 27 at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer. Exactly 50 years ago today, Walton was selected No. 1 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1974 NBA Draft.

Walton was a "trailblazer" in every sense of the word, marching to the beat of his drum. His open-mindedness and positivity, which he carried with him wherever he went, made the world a better (and more entertaining) place. Portland and Walton were an ideal match for each other. Walton was passionate about the outdoors, riding his bike, and unapologetically being his authentic self. The Blazers, meanwhile, desperately wanted their first championship, and Walton delivered.

Bill Walton's role in the Blazers' sole NBA Championship

In 1977, Walton led the Trail Blazers to their first and only championship over the Philadelphia 76ers. In those six games, Walton averaged 18.5 points, 19.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists, earning the Finals MVP.

He was dominant that entire 1977 season, leading the NBA in rebounds and blocks, resulting in his first of what ended up being back-to-back All-Star and All-Defensive First-Team selections. Walton's dominance continued the following season, winning his lone MVP award in 1978. Unfortunately for Walton and the Blazers, his career was marred by a series of injuries. Those two seasons were the peak of his NBA career despite being 25 and only having played four years in the league.

Even though he experienced multiple setbacks, Walton's resilience led him to win another ring with the Boston Celtics in 1986. That same season, he also earned NBA Sixth Man of the Year. The 1986 season was a testament to Walton's team-first mentality, a trait he had always embraced since his time at UCLA. Although he was no longer the same dominant player due to injuries, his basketball IQ and ability to impact winning still made him a valuable contributor.

The fact that he led the Blazers to their sole championship gives Walton a legitimate case that only a few can make - the greatest Portland Trail Blazers player of all time. In terms of his NBA career, Walton's short but highly successful stint in Portland is what many will remember, although we should measure his impact beyond just what he could do with a basketball. 

Bill Walton, we are grateful for the journey you took us on. Rip City was fortunate to have been a part of your remarkable and impactful legacy.