Remembering basketball legend Bill Walton and his connections to the Sacramento Kings

Bill Walton’s unmistakable presence was felt in all corners of the basketball world. Sacramento was no exception.

Walton came to Sacramento as a part-time Kings broadcaster and returned on several occasions after his son, Luke, was hired as head coach.

Walton, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer who died from colon cancer Monday at his home in San Diego at age 71, was a California native. He starred at Helix High School in La Mesa before going to UCLA, where he played for legendary coach John Wooden.

Walton was a two-time NCAA champion and a three-time national college player of the year at UCLA. The Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 1974 NBA draft.

Walton spent four seasons with the Blazers, four seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers and two seasons with the Boston Celtics during his injury plagued career. He was a two-time All-Star, a two-time NBA champion, the 1977 NBA Finals MVP and the 1978 NBA MVP.

Walton began his broadcasting career in 1990 after retiring as a player. He worked for CBS, NBC, the Clippers and ABC/ESPN from 1990-2009. The Kings employed Walton as a part-time color commentator in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Walton and his wife, Lori, came to Sacramento a number of times after the Kings hired Luke Walton as head coach in 2019, sometimes sitting in on his pregame news conferences. Luke Walton mentioned his father when asked about Wooden’s influence during his introductory news conference in Sacramento.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but he was a huge influence,” Walton said. “We had the ‘Pyramid of Success’ hanging on every wall and we had John Wooden quotes written on our brown bag lunch sacks every day going to school, and we used to go to John Wooden basketball camps when we were kids. As a kid, you don’t realize it, but the influence he had directly on my dad impacted me and my brothers very much.”