Shaq, Inside Crew Remember Bill Walton

May 31, 2024

Amid all the hoopla and hype over the NBA Playoffs going on this past week, the NBA also lost one of the giants of the game. Bill Walton died this past Monday (as of this posting) at the age of 71 after a long battle with cancer. 

On TNT’s Inside the NBA this week, our man Shaq opened up about his – what he called – “up an down” relationship with Walton. To say it was a moving tribute would be an understatement. 

It happened on Inside just before Game 4 o the Western Conference Finals between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks. On Inside the NBA and here on the ShaqFu Radio blog, you’ve heard the big man talk about what he calls the “Big Man Alliance.” That’s O’Neal’s way to single out and honor the Association big men… guys whose size and playing ability dominate the game on both offense and defense. 

Shaq called Walton one of the original big men, saying the game “ost one of the four fathers of The Big Man Alliance” when Walton passed. While Shaq is not a founder of that alliance, he’s definitely a part of it. Those four founders? Walton, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell. Centers all, big names, all, for sure.

During the broadcast, O’Neal talked about not having the best of relationships with Walton. “Bill and I had an up-and-down relationship … Not going to lie,” O’Neal said. Yet he also added he felt the rockiness of the relationship was on him: “It was up and down because I was sensitive,” he said.

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It was Walton behind the microphone, often being part of the team calling and analyzing games during Shaq’s playing time with the Lakers. That meant Walton was calling out Shaq’s ups and downs as a player, just like O’Neal does now in his analyst role on TNT. 

Now it’s 2024, and O’Neal says he understands – now – what was going on for Walton and his analysis of the game back in the day. “Bill and all those guys were doing it to me… It’s called “the big man rights of passage,” O’Neal said.

“A lot of times he would criticize me and I was so mad one time, I wanted to put [my] hands on him,” Shaq said. Yet O’Neal says he came to recognize that legendary status comes from work, as well as the guidance received from other stars who have been there before. “I had to listen [to] what these NBA legends say,” he added. “Because if you want to be an NBA legend, shouldn’t you listen to an NBA legend?”

Shaq and Walton – In Younger Days

Shaq was joined by other team members of Inside the NBA in offering their thoughts on Walton and his legacy. Charles Barkley said, “When I got that news yesterday, it hurt. You’re talking about [someone who was] great at basketball, great at life, great as a broadcaster. But just a great person. I’ve never seen someone who was more joyful to be around, who was always in a good mood.”

Barkley talked about Walton’s impact being bigger than just the game. “I explain it like this, Ernie (talking to Inside the NBA host Earnie Johnson). The world isn’t as good of a place as it was yesterday. The world was better for having Bill Walton in it.”

Walton was a two-time national champion in his college days playing at UCLA. In his professional career, Walton led the Portland Trail Blazers to their first and only NBA championship in 1977. He was named the Finals MVP as well. Then towards the end of his playing time, he won his second NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 1986. During this season, he played a key role as a sixth man, providing crucial support off the bench as a backup for Robert Parish.

For his TV career, Walton earned an Emmy Award in 1991. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. We’ll miss you, Bill. 

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