Bill Walton, three-time National Player of the Year and a key member of the UCLA dynasty under John Wooden, was one of the greatest men’s college basketball players of all time. Here’s everything you need to know about Walton’s time with the Bruins.
Bill Walton’s Vital Signs
The school: UCLA
Mass: 210 pounds
Active years: 1971-74
NCAA Tournament Record: 11-1
Middle school averages: 20.3 points per game, 15.7 rebounds per game, 65.1% shooting
What was Bill Walton’s college record?
A story published in The Terre Haute Grandstand on March 24, 1972 noted that Walton had not lost a game since he was a sophomore in high school in 1967.
UCLA was 86-4 during Bill Walton’s three years of college, with the center starting his college career 73-0. Walton’s only four losses came in his senior year (Notre Dame, Oregon State, Oregon and then NC State in the NCAA Tournament).
How was Bill Walton’s offensive game?
The Terre Haute Grandstand noted that Walton “doesn’t shoot everywhere”. But this led to extreme efficiency.
In a Final Four game against Louisville in the 1972 NCAA Tournament, Walton was 11 of 15 from the field, scoring 33 points to go along with 21 rebounds. He had 24 and 16 at halftime.
the Associated press noted that Walton was also double-teamed for most of the match.
After the game, Louisville coach Denny Crum told reporters, “I think they’re the best UCLA team ever.”
UCLA’s 1971-72 team quickly became nicknamed “Walton’s Gang”, in honor of the second 6-11. The craziest part?
Well let The daily Herald Explain:
“Walton averaged 21.3 points per game and 15.5 rebounds per game, though he was on the bench most of the time after starters built insurmountable leads,” wrote The daily Heraldby sports editor Joe Watts.
Walton led UCLA in points, rebounds and field goal percentage for three consecutive years:
- 1971-72: 21.1 points, 15.5 rebounds, 63.9% shooting
- 1972-73: 20.4 points, 16.9 rebounds, 65.0% shooting
- 1973-74: 19.3 points, 14.7 rebounds, 66.5% shooting
No sophomore, junior, or senior in UCLA history has averaged more rebounds per game, respectively, than when Walton was a sophomore, junior, and senior.
He even led the Bruins in assists in 1974 with 5.48 assists per game.
That’s because offensively, Walton was key in the transition. “Walton … kicked off UCLA’s famous fast break with fast passing,” noted the PA. Wooden said Walton was the best center he had ever seen throwing out passes.
Walton already had a triple-double against SMU with 25 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
The following series of photographs in The daily Herald (Provo, UT) shows Walton’s technique of grabbing a rebound, holding the ball high above his head and throwing a two-handed overhead pass to a teammate.
What were Bill Walton’s best games in college?
Walton’s most famous college performance was a 44-point outburst in the 1973 NCAA Tournament National Championship against Memphis State, when he made 21 of 22 field goal attempts. He also did it all in only 33 minutes.
After the game, famed basketball journalist Dick Weiss of the Mail-post (Camden, NJ) wrote, “How could a team lose with Bill Walton on their roster? Bill Walton is a 6-11 junior center from Helix, Calif. who is the best college basketball player of all times. Full stop.”
Walton scored eight of UCLA’s first 12 points in the game and never looked back.
Walton scored in a variety of ways against Memphis State. There were running jump hooks and short jumpers on the glass. In fact, the number of jumps he made off the lane might be the most impressive part of his 44-point, 95% shooting performance. It’s not like he attempted 22 dunks, and yet he only missed once the whole game.
The missing one?
It came after a high lob.
Even on his layups and dunks, Walton was incredibly active in his setup and footwork on the low block.
He may not have been fast in the traditional sense at 6-foot-11 and 210 pounds, but he was fast. He would dash across the lane to establish his position or surprise a sleeping defender as he made his way to the edge. He used fake shots and polished post moves to achieve a clean look. Walton would take passes that weren’t necessarily intended to be alley-oops and he would score an alley-oop layup.
When UCLA led Memphis State 35-30, Walton wasn’t that far behind the Tigers with his individual point total of 20.
Watch the incredible performance for yourself:
The fact that Walton once scored 44 points in an NCAA tournament title game while being nearly perfect on the court completely reframes the discussion of his greatest games.
What other performance could come close?
Well, he scored at least 20 points in five other NCAA Tournament games, including two 20-point, 20-rebound games in the 1972 NCAA Tournament. As we mentioned earlier, Walton had 33 points and 21 rebounds. against Louisville in the national semifinals, then he had 24 and 20 against Florida State in the national championship game.
In Walton’s only career NCAA tournament loss, a double-overtime thriller to NC State, he still had 29 points and 18 rebounds while playing all 50 minutes, so he certainly did his part to keep the Bruins in. the game.
What awards did Bill Walton win in college?
Bill Walton has won the following awards and accolades:
- 1972 West Regional Team
- 1972 Best Player
- 1972 All-Tournament Team
- 1972 Consensus All-American
- 1972 National Player of the Year
- 1973 West Regional Team
- 1973 Best Player
- 1973 All-Tournament Team
- 1973 Consensus All-American
- 1973 National Player of the Year
- 1974 West Regional Team
- 1974 All-Tournament Team
- 1974 Consensus All-American
- 1974 National Player of the Year
- 1970s All-Decade Team
- One of the top 15 players honored at the March 75th Madness Celebration
What records did Bill Walton set in college and where does he rank among the historical greats?
- Most points scored in an NCAA Tournament Championship game: 44 points (1973)
- Most field goals in an NCAA Tournament Championship game: 21 (1973)
- UCLA all-time leader in career rebounds: 1,370 rebounds
- UCLA all-time leader in career rebounds per game (min. 60 games): 15.7 rebounds per game
- UCLA – record 48 games with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds
- First, tied for second and eighth on UCLA single-season rebounds per game list: 16.9 rpg, 15.5 rpg, 14.7 rpg
- Second all-time record for field goal percentage in two games in a Final Four: 82.4% (1973)
- Tied for second all-time in two games in a Final Four: 41 (1972)
- Tied for second, tied for fourth all-time in UCLA history in single-game rebounds: 27 (twice), 24 (three times)
- Second in UCLA history for career field goal percentage: 65.1%
- Second in UCLA history in career double-doubles: 72 double-doubles
- Second in UCLA history in 20 rebounding games: 19 games
- Tied for third all-time in field goals in two games in a Final Four: 28 (173)
- Third in UCLA history in career goalscoring average (min. 60 games): 20.3 points per game
- Fourth, tied for fifth in rebounds in an NCAA Tournament semifinal: 18 (1974), 17 (1973)
- Tied for fourth all-time in rebounds in an NCAA Tournament Championship Game: 20 (1972)
- Fourth in UCLA history in goals scored: 747
- Fifth all-time most rebounds in a season: 506 rebounds in 1973
- Sixth all-time with the highest rebounding average in a season: 16.9 rebounds per game in 1973
- Thirteenth all-time in career field goal percentage: 65.1%
- Nineteenth and 24th on UCLA’s all-time single-season averages list: 21.1 ppg (1972), 20.4 ppg (1973)
- Tied for 18th all-time for most double-doubles in a season: 27 (in 30 games) in 1973
- Tied for 21st all-time for most career double-doubles: 72 double-doubles
- Tied for 22nd all-time in most rebounds in a game since 1973: 27 rebounds vs. Loyola Chicago and Maryland in 1973
- Tied for 27th all-time in consecutive double-doubles in a season: 15 consecutive double-doubles in 1971-72
What have people said about Bill Walton?
Louisville coach Denny Crum: “Bill Walton is just amazing. He creates so many problems. The only way to beat UCLA is to keep Walton from getting the ball back and there’s really no way to do that – at least with our staff.”
UCLA coach John Wooden: “There were only two men I coached who could have played in college in their early years – Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton.”
Wooden, after Walton’s 44-point performance at the national championship: “For Bill, I think it’s the only time this season that I’ve seen him so emotionally ready to play. I’m very proud of this team. Maybe I’ve never had a better team when we considers both attack and defence. It was a team achievement and was built around Walton, but we’d be fools not to go for him.”
Florida State coach Hugh Durham: “If you run against them you might catch Walton away from the basket, but if you slow down he’ll be there and gobble it all up.”
Memphis State coach Murray Bartow before the 1973 National Championship game: “Anyone who runs with UCLA is going to lose. I don’t think anyone can enter a run-and-shoot contest with them and win – not us, not the Boston Celtics, nobody.”
Bartow, after the 1973 national championship game: “Walton…Walton…Walton…We couldn’t contain Walton. I’ve never seen a player as dominant as Walton. He’s big, strong and nervous. We worked to push him further. We could “Don’t take him out. If you let him have the ball around the basket, you’re dead. We found it.”
unattributed (1972): “If you’re evaluating every team in the country, you’ll have to evaluate them in the following order: Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and UCLA Bruins.”