‘The best of us.' How teammates, rivals and more are remembering basketball legend Bill Walton

Bill Walton died Monday at age 71.

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Teammates, rivals, a former president, sports columnists and more are among those honoring UCLA and NBA great Bill Walton.

The NBA Hall of Famer and three-time college basketball Player of the Year at UCLA died Monday at age 71 after a fight with cancer, the NBA said.

News of his death drew tributes from basketball Hall of Famers and figures beyond the world of sports. They remembered Walton as a beloved teammate, fierce rival and one-of-a-kind character with a zest for life who was full of curiosity, energy and kindness.

Walton won two NCAA titles during a historic run with UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden. Bruins teams accomplished during the Walton era what seems unfathomable in the modern college basketball age, winning their first 73 games and extending UCLA's winning streak to an NCAA-record 88 games (1971-1974). The second-longest winning streak is 60 games, set by San Francisco (1955-1957). Since the Bruins set that mark, the closest any team has come was a 45-game winning streak set by UNLV (1990-1991).

Walton was the first pick by Portland in 1974 before an injury-plagued NBA career that included championships with the Trail Blazers and Boston. After the NBA, Walton embarked on a broadcasting career that earned him a spot on the list of top 50 sports broadcasters of all-time by the American Sportscasters Association in 2009.

He is survived by his wife Lori and sons Adam, Chris, Nate and Luke, who played 10 seasons in the NBA.

The roundup of reaction below will be updated.

UCLA teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“My very close friend, fellow Bruin and NBA rival Bill Walton died today. And the world feels so much heavier now. On the court, Bill was a fierce player, but off the court he wasn’t happy unless he did everything he could to make everyone around him happy. He was the best of us.”

Former President Barack Obama

“Bill Walton was one of the greatest basketball players of all time — a champion at every level and the embodiment of unselfish team play. He was also a wonderful spirit full of curiosity, humor and kindness. We are poorer for his passing, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family."

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

Bill Walton was truly one of a kind. As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position. 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. 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.''

Portland Trail Blazers

“Bill Walton was a true legend — an extraordinary player, talented broadcaster, and vital part of the Blazers organization. His mastery of the game not only established him as one of the greatest centers in history, but also led the Blazers to a championship in 1977, where he earned NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. But Bill was so much more than basketball, he was larger than life. His upbeat and vibrant personality will forever be remembered and cherished, and he will be deeply missed by our organization, Rip City and all who experienced him. Our love and condolences go to Bill’s wife, Lori and his sons, Adam, Nate, Luke and Chris.”

Boston Celtics

"Bill Walton was one of the most consequential players of his era. A Hall of Famer, Most Valuable Player, and two-time NBA Champion, Walton could do it all, possessing great timing, complete vision of the floor, excellent fundamentals, and was of one of the greatest passing big men in league history. He derived great joy from basketball and music, and deeply cherished his moments with teammates and friends. As a Celtic, Bill overcame years of debilitating injuries, regained his zest for the game, and helped guide the 1986 Boston Celtics championship with both his play and his spirit. The Boston Celtics celebrate Bill’s wonderful life and legacy, and send their deepest sympathies to the Walton family."

Julius 'Dr. J' Erving, 76ers Hall of Famer

"I am sad today hearing that my comrade & one of the sports world's most beloved champions & characters has passed. Bill Walton enjoyed life in every way. To compete against him & to work with him was a blessing in my life. Sorry for your loss Walton family. We’ll miss him too. Doc"

ESPN broadcaster Dave Pasch

“Bill was a special, kind, and genuine person. I’m incredibly grateful for our close friendship, and the time we spent together on the air, out to dinner after the game, or in his teepee in his backyard. An iconic athlete and broadcaster, but more important, a legendary person who always made me smile.”

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, Walton's teammate in Boston

“He was a guy who did everything and there’s been a lot of talk today about how he speaks in hyperbole and stuff, but he just defiantly competed for every moment in life to be the greatest it could possibly be. That’s the best way to describe it. What an amazing man. There will never be another."

Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart

Bill was my best friend. He was an amazing person, singular, irreplaceable, giving, loving. He called himself the luckiest man in the world but it was us who were lucky — to know him. There are things you can replace. And others you cannot. Bon voyage, old friend, I love you.”

Mick Cronin, UCLA men's basketball coach

"It's very hard to put into words what he has meant to UCLA's program, as well as his tremendous impact on college basketball. 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. As a passionate UCLA alumnus and broadcaster, he loved being around our players, hearing their stories and sharing his wisdom and advice. For me as a coach, he was honest, kind, and always had his heart in the right place.''

UCLA Gymnastics

"Rest in peace to UCLA legend Bill Walton. We will always remember him for the joy he brought to everything in life!"

Hall of Famer Alex English

“Bill Walton marched to the beat of his own drum. I admired him as a great basketball player, but even more as a special human being who spoke up for social justice. One of one. Rest in peace, Bill.”

Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball

“Bill Walton was a brilliant, interesting, thoughtful, humorous and genuine soul who loved life and cared about everyone he encountered. He will be dearly missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to share his friendship.”

Pac-12 Conference

“Bill’s list of accomplishments on the court, as massive as they are, are only outweighed by the quality of his character and beauty of his one-of-a-kind loving spirit. In the words of our friend and hero — Thank you, Bill, for our life."

Lakers great Magic Johnson

“From shooting jump shots to making incredible passes, he was one of the smartest basketball players to ever live. Bill was a great ambassador for college basketball and the NBA, and he will be sorely missed.”

Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan

“What a privilege to know him.”

Former Laker Pau Gasol

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Bill Walton, a basketball legend and an incredible human being. ... You will be deeply missed.”

Los Angeles Clippers

“We have lost one of the greatest players and personalities that this franchise, this sport and this region have ever known. Bill Walton is synonymous with Southern California basketball: a San Diego native, a UCLA phenom, a Clipper icon. He defined the game as a player, a broadcaster and an ambassador, spreading joy for generations. Wherever he went, whatever he did, Big Red stood above the crowd.”

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr

“Bill Walton was a legendary player, a hilarious, colorful broadcaster and most of all a wonderful person. I fell in love with basketball watching Bill dominate at UCLA in front of packed crowds at Pauley Pavilion, and I was blessed to get to know him later in our lives when he covered the NBA as an analyst on TV.... His incredible energy, passion, love and zest for life was never turned off. Our hearts are broken today as we mourn Bill’s passing and grieve with his family.”

Former Arizona coach Sean Miller, now at Xavier

"He left me some of the most iconic voice messages a man can receive. I saved them all. He knew the names of my wife, my kids, and always asked me how my dad was doing. And, he loved the Pac 12! Bill will be missed by many people. I am certainly one of them. He made me smile every time I saw him.”

Tennis great Billie Jean King

"I was lucky to have met him, and to have watched his Hall of Fame career at UCLA and the NBA. But it was his off-the-court character and kindness to others that made him special. Thinking of his loved ones today."

Musician John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival

"So sad that our friend Bill Walton has passed away. He was truly a very special and joyful person and his megawatt smile made everyone smile! His enthusiasm for life and all things rock and roll was unstoppable and we miss you Bill! Our love and prayers to Lori and family."

Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd

“It's a legend lost.”

Ralph Lawler, broadcaster

"I never had a better friend and there are hundreds of others who feel the same way. He leaves a giant hole in our hearts."

ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro

"Bill often described himself as `the luckiest guy in the world,' but anyone who had the opportunity to interact with Bill was the lucky one. He was a truly special, giving person who always made time for others. Bill's one-of-a-kind spirit captivated and inspired audiences during his second career as a successful broadcaster."

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