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Basketball icon Bill Walton has been named as the Sports Marshal for next month's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, organizers announced on Friday.
Walton, named one of the National Basketball Association's 50 Greatest Players of All Time, had a legendary high school career in La Mesa, Calif., before playing a huge part in the John Wooden-coached UCLA basketball dynasty of the 1960s/1970s. Following his standout though injury-plagued NBA career, Walton has spent years as a basketball commentator at all levels of the game.
Walton, a dominating post player, led Wooden's UCLA teams from 1971 to 1974. The Bruins won the national title in 1972 over Florida State; and, again in 1973 with an 87-66 win over Memphis State in which Walton made 21 of 22 field goal attempts and scored 44 points. The Walton-led 1971-72 UCLA basketball team had a record of 30-0, winning its games by an average margin of more than 30 points. He was the backbone of two consecutive 30-0 seasons and was also part of UCLA's NCAA men's basketball record 88-game winning streak.
Walton was taken as the number one overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, but it not until the 1976-77 season that he was healthy enough to play 65 games. That season under new coach Jack Ramsey, the Trail Blazers became the Cinderella team of the NBA. Walton led the NBA in rebounds and blocked shots that season, and was selected to the NBA All-Star Game. In the postseason, Walton led Portland to a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals (arguably holding his own against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). As Finals MVP, he went on to help the Trail Blazers to the NBA title over the favored Philadelphia 76ers.
His subsequent NBA career was marked by injuries, especially to his feet and ankles. When he was healthy, Walton could still be dominant, especially during a late-career stint with the Boston Celtics capped by the Celtics winning the 1986 NBA championship.
After his retirement, Walton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996 he was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players of All Time. Following his retirement as a player, Walton overcame a stuttering problem to become a successful NBA color commentator for NBC (1990-2002), the Los Angeles Clippers (1990-2002) and ABC/ESPN (2002-2009). Walton returned to broadcasting as a part-time commentator for the Sacramento Kings (2010-2012). In July 2012, ESPN and the Pac-12 Network announced that he would be working as a game analyst for Pac-12 basketball coverage.
As Sports Marshal, Walton will be the featured speaker at the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast, held May 3 at 8 a.m., at the Winchester Moose Lodge, 215 East Cork St., in Winchester. He will also ride in the Grand Feature Parade at 1:30pm on that Saturday afternoon.
Tickets to all Festival events are now on sale at The Railroad District, 302 North Cameron St., in Winchester.