Read Larry Bird’s statement on the death of his ‘childhood idol,’ Bill Walton

Read Larry Bird’s statement on the death of his ‘childhood idol,’ Bill Walton

Larry Bird joined the chorus of those paying tribute to Bill Walton on Monday, in the hours after the Hall of Famer’s death at the age of 71.

“I am very sorry about my good friend, Bill Walton. I love him as a friend and teammate,” Bird, 67, wrote in a statement. “It was a thrill for me to play with my childhood idol and together we earned an NBA Championship in 1986. He is one of the greatest to ever play the game. I am sure that all of my teammates are as grateful as I am that we were able to know Bill; he was such a joy to know and he will be sorely missed. My family and I extend our sincere condolences to the Walton family.”

Bird was reportedly integral in the Celtics acquiring Walton, in the office when the center spoke to team patriarch Red Auerbach after the possibility of a trade from the San Diego Clippers. Walton promptly won Sixth Man of the Year as part of a dominant Celtics’ championship in 1985-86.

As the statement makes clear, the two were closer than mere teammates.

“Larry’s story, coming from where he came from in Terre Haute,” Walton told Yahoo’s Ben Rohrbach. “It is just a classic journey of this comet, this meteor, just searing across the universe, and bam — just so much light, so much heat, so much radiating brilliance, and it just said, ‘Larry Bird, I was there.’ “

“If Bill could’ve [played] his career, from start to finish, healthy, there’s no telling where he’d be ranked in the best players ever,” Bird said in ESPN’s “30 for 30″ on Walton, ‘The Luckiest Guy in the World.’ “He’s that good. He had all the skills.”

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