Bill Walton, a three-time National Player of the Year and a key member in UCLA’s dynasty under John Wooden, was one of the greatest men’s college basketball players ever. Here’s everything you need to know about Walton’s time with the Bruins.

The vitals for Bill Walton

School: UCLA
Position: Center
Height: 6-11
Weight: 210 pounds
Years active: 1971-74
NCAA tournament record: 11-1
College averages: 20.3 points per game, 15.7 rebounds per game, 65.1% field goal shooting

What was Bill Walton’s record in college?

A story published in The Terre Haute Tribune on March 24, 1972 noted that Walton hadn’t 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).

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What was Bill Walton’s offensive game like?

The Terre Haute Tribune noted that Walton “doesn’t shoot all over the place.” But that 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 double-teamed for most of the game, too.

After the game, Louisville coach Denny Crum told reporters, “I think this is the best UCLA team ever.”

UCLA’s 1971-72 squad quickly became nicknamed “Walton’s Gang,” in honor of the 6-11 sophomore. The craziest part?

We’ll let The Daily Herald explain:

“Walton has averaged 21.3 points per game and 15.5 rebounds per game, despite riding the bench much of the time after the starters had built insurmountable leads,” wrote The Daily Herald‘s sports editor Joe Watts.

Walton led UCLA in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage for three consecutive years:

  • 1971-72: 21.1 points, 15.5 rebounds, 63.9% field goal shooting
  • 1972-73: 20.4 points, 16.9 rebounds, 65.0% field goal shooting
  • 1973-74: 19.3 points, 14.7 rebounds, 66.5% field goal 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 played a key role in transition. “Walton … started UCLA’s famed fast break with quick outlet passes,” noted the AP. Wooden said Walton is the best center he had ever seen in throwing outlet passes.

Walton once 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) show Walton’s technique of grabbing a rebound, holding the ball high over his head and throwing a two-handed overhead pass to a teammate.

What were some of 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 did all that in just 33 minutes, too.

After the game, famous basketball journalist Dick Weiss of the Courier-Post (Camden, N.J.) wrote, “How could any team lose with Bill Walton on its roster? Bill Walton is a 6-11 junior center from Helix, Calif. who is the best college basketball player ever. Period.”

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 off the glass. In fact, the number of jumpers he made outside of the lane might be the most impressive part of his 44-point, 95-percent shooting performance. It’s not like he attempted 22 dunks, and still, he missed only once all game.

The one miss?

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 6-11, 210 pounds, but he was quick. He’d dart across the lane to establish position or to catch a sleeping defender off-guard on his way to the rim. He utilized shot fakes and refined post moves to get clean looks. Walton would takes passes that weren’t necessarily intended to be alley-oops and he score an alley-oop layup off of them.

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: