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Helix High School remembers 1970 graduate Bill Walton

Bill Walton at Helix High School
Posted at 12:31 PM, May 28, 2024

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – All of San Diego is still grieving the loss of basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who died Monday at age 71 after a battle with cancer.

Before Walton embarked on what turned into a 50-year career in the NBA as a player and broadcaster, he played basketball for the Helix Charter High School Highlanders in La Mesa.

Helix High School Athletic Director Damon Chase said Walton played four years of varsity basketball and graduated in 1970. Outside of the school’s gym is a trophy case filled with the legacy Walton left behind.

"He loved Helix," Chase said. "In the early 2000s, we were redoing some of the gym. We had old wooden backboards, and he paid for us to have glass backboards on the sides of our courts, which was a big deal at the time. When you talk about Helix athletics, people go to Reggie Bush and Alex Smith, and I think the biggest one of all is Bill Walton."

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Chase said Walton played with his brother Bruce at Helix High and the basketball program won two CIF championships, with Walton on the team.

Pat Albanese, a former teammate of Walton's at Helix, said he got to play one year of basketball with him in 1970, and it was the year they went undefeated.

"It was unreal. We were playing with the greatest basketball player of all time," Albanese said. "He was just a great teammate. If you were on that team, it was a team, from him to me, who was probably the worst guy on the team. He treated everyone the same. When you can't get a seat in the gym at halftime of the JV game, you know something special is going on."

Walton went on to win two NCAA championships with UCLA and two championships in the NBA. After retiring, he started a career in broadcasting with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Over the years, Walton became an activist in San Diego community, including 20 years of helping the Challenged Athletes Foundation that empowers athletes with physical disabilities.

RELATED: Local non-profit, sports fans remember Bill Walton's 'bigger than life' legacy

Walton was also involved with Sunbreak Ranch, an organization that helps people transition out of homelessness in San Diego.

The Boys and Girls Club in La Mesa also named their gym after Walton.

In a statement the NBA posted on social media Monday, it says Walton was surrounded by his family when he passed.

Walton leaves behind his wife Lori and four sons.