▶ Watch Video: Bill Walton’s long, strange trip

Bill Walton, the dominant college big man who won a pair of NBA championships and later enjoyed a successful broadcasting career, has died, the NBA announced on Monday. He was 71.

Walton died after a prolonged battle with cancer, the league said. He was surrounded by his family.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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.”

Walton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1974 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, and he led the team to their only NBA title in 1977. Named the league MVP in 1977-78 and the Sixth Man of the Year in 1985-86, Walton won another title in 1986 as a member of the Boston Celtics.

But that season proved to be his last hurrah. Walton, who battled injuries throughout his career, would play just 22 more games between the regular season and playoffs before retiring in 1988.

Before his pro career, Walton was a two-time champion at UCLA, leading the Bruins to titles in 1972 and 1973 and an 88-game winning streak. His 44 points in the national championship game in 1973 remain a record. Walton was also a three-time national player of the year at UCLA while playing for legendary coach John Wooden.

“On behalf of everyone with the UCLA men’s basketball program, we are deeply saddened to learn of Bill Walton’s passing,” UCLA head coach Mick Cronin said in a statement, adding: “Beyond his remarkable accomplishments as a player, it’s his relentless energy, enthusiasm for the game and unwavering candor that have been the hallmarks of his larger than life personality.”

After his playing career, Walton became a sportscaster known for his colorful commentary, which often included catchphrases and hyperbole.

“Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans,” Silver said. “But what I will remember most about him was his zest for life. He was a regular presence at league events – always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. I treasured our close friendship, envied his boundless energy and admired the time he took with every person he encountered.”

Walton was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

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