Injury plagued Hall of Famer Bill Walton was a great player for one thing: winning. His teams won more games than any other player in NBA history, thanks to the relentless effort he put into every game no matter if it was his last or not. Walton’s injury history almost robbed him from ever achieving that kind of success on the court and nearly cost him his life off it.

Bill Walton’s Hall of Fame career was marred by injuries, but it nearly never happened for a different reason. He was drafted in the first round of the 1978 NBA Draft and had an impressive rookie season with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, he suffered a severe ankle injury that kept him out for most of his sophomore season, and then broke his foot after only playing in 25 games during his third year. Injuries continued to plague Walton throughout his career, and he retired in 2004 at age 48 as one of the oldest players ever to play in the NBA.

Bill Walton's Hall of Fame Career Was Marred by Injuries, but It Nearly Never Happened at All for a Different Reason

Walton, Bill was one of the all-time great collegiate basketball players. Despite an injury-plagued NBA career, he was named NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, and won two championships. But, between his junior and senior years at UCLA, an event almost terminated his professional career before it even began.

Walton, 69, is still one of the game’s most colorful characters. He was the first NBA player to win both MVP and Sixth Man of the Year awards. With his MVP title in 2017–18, James Harden joined him in the select club. Walton’s career remains one of his era’s major “what-if” concerns due to repeated foot and ankle ailments.

Bill Walton was out for four seasons.

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While Bill Walton could handle the physical demands of a 30-game college season, his injury problems started nearly as soon as he joined the Portland Trail Blazers in 1974.

Walton, the first overall choice in the NBA Draft in 1974, missed 47 games as a rookie and 31 games in his second season due to knee and back problems. He only played in 65 regular-season games while leading Portland to its lone NBA championship in 1977. Until Walton fractured his foot in 1977–78, the Trail Blazers were on track to surpass the NBA record for most victories in a season.

When Walton was fired, Portland had a 50–8 record and had won just eight of its last 24 games before falling in the Western Conference playoffs. In Game 2 against the Seattle SuperSonics, he re-injured his foot, and the Trail Blazers lost in six games.

In four of his 14 NBA seasons, Walton did not play a single game. He also had seasons when he missed 72 and 68 games, respectively. He missed more games than he participated throughout his career. Walton played in 468 NBA games while missing 680 of them.

Big Red, on the other hand, was on the verge of missing out on the NBA for reasons unrelated to his shaky feet.

Bill Walton’s summer vacation took a near-fatal turn.

The first overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft, Bill Walton had a star-crossed career because of injuries. But it nearly never happened at all.

The first overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft, Bill Walton had a star-crossed career because of injuries. But it nearly never happened at all. Bill Walton, the first overall choice in the 1974 NBA Draft, had a star-crossed career due to injuries. But it was on the verge of not happening at all. Getty Images/Bettmann Archive

Bill Walton started taking a regular summer sabbatical after UCLA won its seventh straight national title in 1973. Walton took a part-time job until he accumulated enough money to go on a journey, according to his book, Back from the Dead.

He intended to ride his bicycle to Canada, where he had explored the previous year. But, three days in, he called it quits, blaming the hefty gear on his bike. Instead, he went to a pay phone and dialed a few numbers.

Walton rode his bike around the countryside in the mornings after attending studies at Sonoma State College in California.

Things took a bad turn one day on his way home from class to his buddies’ place.

“A terrible feeling started to run down the front of my right leg,” Walton wrote. “I noticed this large ugly bee persistently pouring his poison into my calf as I looked down.” I reached down and brushed the bee off me, which took some energy since it was very deep in and tightly connected, thinking nothing of it and without disrupting the power train home.”

What transpired next almost threw Walton’s life and career into disarray.

Walton had a strong allergic reaction to the bee sting.

Bill Walton was head and shoulders above the college basketball crowd during his three seasons at UCLA.

Bill Walton was head and shoulders above the college basketball crowd during his three seasons at UCLA. During his three seasons at UCLA, Bill Walton stood head and shoulders above the collegiate basketball throng. | Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Bill Walton suspected something was awry after biking the last five kilometers to his hotel:

“All of a sudden, my whole body felt like it was on fire – everywhere.” I was dripping sweat from every pore on my body. My eyesight was becoming hazy and foggy. My mouth was frothing, my nose was running, and my eyes were watering. My throat and tongue were quickly swelling, and I was losing my capacity to breathe. And things were quickly deteriorating.”

Bill Walton

Walton had a bee sting allergy.

Jim, a friend, heard his anguish and called for an ambulance. On the way to the hospital in Santa Rosa, the ambulance crew radioed ahead to a doctor in a tiny town.

“As the ambulance came to a screeching halt, the doctor flung open the door and pierced me with the big needle full of epinephrine, shoving Benadryl tablets down my throat, attempting to reverse the lethal anaphylactic shock induced by the bee sting,” Walton recounted.

Walton was able to make a complete recovery. EpiPens and Benadryl have been part of his normal travel gear since then.

Despite all of his health issues throughout his NBA career, an allergic response was almost never one of them. He went on to enjoy a fantastic summer and returned to school rejuvenated for his last year. Bill Walton’s collegiate career came to an end with a defeat in the national semifinals, ending UCLA’s historic run of straight championships. He did, however, survive to tell the story, which is a victory in and of itself.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

Bill Walton Couldn’t Say Anything During the Blazers’ Championship Ceremony Except to Humbly Request His Bike Be Returned: RELATED: Bill Walton Couldn’t Say Anything During the Blazers’ Championship Ceremony Except to Humbly Request His Bike Be Returned: ‘I’m going to have to go home at some point.’

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Bill Walton’s Hall of Fame Career was Marred by Injuries, but It Nearly Never Happened at All for a Different Reason. Bill Walton is one of the most decorated players in NBA history. He won three championships with the Portland Trail Blazers and two more with the Boston Celtics. His career averages are 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. However, his injuries nearly ended his career before it even began. Reference: bill walton college stats.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was Bill Walton known for?

A: Bill Walton was a basketball player and is most known for being the first NBA player to ever be drafted straight out of high school in 1967.

Where did Bill Walton go to college?

Did Bill Walton go to law school?

A: Yes, he graduated from UCLA in 1978 with a law degree.

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