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Chet Walker dies at 84: Basketball Corridor of Famer was seven-time NBA All-Star with 76ers, Bulls

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Chet Walker, a basketball Corridor of Famer who made seven All-Star groups with the Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls, and received a championship in 1967, has died at 84 after a long-term battle with sickness, the Nationwide Basketball Gamers Affiliation introduced on Saturday. 

“Walker made a profound influence in our metropolis and inside our League,” the Sixers mentioned in a press release. 

“His ability, dedication and contributions to the sport made an enduring influence on the game of basketball and town of Chicago,” the Bulls added. “Chet Walker will ceaselessly be remembered as a real Chicago Bulls icon.”

Born on February 22, 1940 in Bethlehem, Mississippi, Walker was the youngest of 10 youngsters. He grew up in a home with no indoor plumbing or electrical energy, which he later described as “third world.” When he was 10 years outdated, his mom moved the household to Benton Harbor, Michigan after considered one of his sisters died of tuberculosis as a result of a whites solely hospital refused care. 

In Michigan, Walker turned a star at Benton Harbor Excessive College. As a senior in 1958, he led the Tigers to the state championship recreation and a long-awaited showdown with Dave DuBusschere, who would additionally go on to a Corridor of Fame profession. Regardless of 25 factors from Walker, Benton Harbor misplaced a heartbreaker, 71-68. 

Following his prep profession, Walker went to Bradley College in Peoria, Illinois, the place he turned a two-time First Group All-American, a three-time All-Missouri Valley Convention honoree and led the Braves to the 1960 NIT championship at a time when that occasion was simply as prestigious because the NCAA Event. He averaged 24.4 factors and 12.8 rebounds throughout his 4 seasons in Peoria, the place he additionally earned his “Chet the Jet” nickname. He later had his No. 31 retired by this system. 

Within the 1962 NBA Draft, the Syracuse Nationals chosen Walker with the No. 12 general choose (at the moment a second-round choose). Walker put collectively strong rookie season, which turned out to be the tip {of professional} basketball in Syracuse. Shortly after the conclusion of the 1962-63 season, the Nationals have been bought and relocated to Philadelphia, the place they have been re-named the 76ers. 

It was in Philadelphia that Walker got here into his personal. He was an All-Star in three of his first 4 seasons with the Sixers, and proved to be an ideal match alongside Wilt Chamberlain, who returned to town throughout the 1964-65 marketing campaign. Only a few years later, Walker and Chamberlain teamed up with Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham to guide the Sixers to their first title since being relocated, and nonetheless considered one of simply two the franchise has received in Philadelphia. 

In the course of the 1967 playoffs, Walker averaged 21.7 factors, 7.6 factors and a pair of.1 assists per recreation, because the Sixers ended the Boston Celtics‘ reign of eight consecutive championships by defeating them within the Japanese Convention finals, then took down the San Francisco Warriors within the Finals. The 1967 Sixers are nonetheless thought to be among the best groups of all time. 

“He was sluggish — you have been sluggish, Chet — however you simply could not cease the person,” Cunningham mentioned when presenting Walker at his Corridor of Fame induction in 2012. “He simply took you to the spot on the court docket, faked you, went up over you, took it to the outlet, or somebody was open and he’d discover the open man.”

After two extra productive seasons with the Sixers, each of which ended with playoff defeats to the Celtics, Walker was traded to the Chicago Bulls. Given a much bigger function, Walker turned one of the vital constant scorers within the league. Throughout six seasons with the Bulls, he averaged 20.6 factors on 48.3% taking pictures, made 4 All-Star appearances and led the Bulls to the playoffs each time. He additionally scored a career-high 56 factors in 1972, which remained the Bulls’ franchise file till Michael Jordan hit 57 in 1987. 

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Whereas the Bulls by no means had a lot playoff success throughout Walker’s tenure, he had a long-lasting influence on the franchise, which was in simply its fourth 12 months of existence when he got here alongside. 

“The game hadn’t made it in Chicago going again many years they usually have been once more trying to transfer the staff,” Pat Williams, the Bulls’ common supervisor throughout Walker’s tenure instructed the New York Instances many years later. “However when Chet obtained there, every little thing modified.”

His legacy prolonged off the court docket as nicely. He was the Bulls’ consultant to the NBPA in 1970 and was a plaintiff within the anti-trust lawsuit filed by the gamers to problem the deliberate merger between the NBA and ABA and the league’s reserve clause, which tied gamers to 1 staff. The swimsuit was profitable in delaying the merger till 1976 and granting the gamers free company for the primary time. 

“The purpose was the lawsuit modified the construction of the NBA,” Walker instructed veteran Chicago journalist Sam Smith years later. “The gamers began making extra money, so the coaches made extra money. It took away the only real energy the house owners had. The Robertson swimsuit was the beginning of what made attainable all the cash that is made now. Larry Fleisher (gamers’ legal professional) by no means obtained the credit score he deserved. No one talks about what these gamers did.”

Walker, although, believed the settlement didn’t go far sufficient, and refused to assist it. He filed a separate lawsuit towards Bulls proprietor Arthur Wirtz and left the staff over a wage dispute following the 1975-76 season. When instructed, by way of a press release from David Stern, who was then an legal professional with the league, that he was “legally Bulls property,” Walker walked away for good. 

“I sat there reflecting on the phrase — property,” Walker wrote in his 1995 memoir. “Making $200,000 a 12 months, I knew that thousands and thousands of individuals would like to be in my footwear. But with Mr. Wirtz’s declare to personal me, I felt that 2 hundred years of my household’s historical past in America had all of a sudden turn into actual to me. I by no means mentioned one other phrase to him however turned and walked out the workplace door.”

Following his retirement, Walker turned a profitable producer in Los Angeles. Most notably, his 1989 TV sequence, “A Mom’s Braveness,” which was based mostly on the lifetime of Corridor of Famer Isiah Thomas’ mom, Mary, received an Emmy for Excellent Kids’s Program. He was additionally a producer on Muhammad Ali’s film, “Freedom Street,” and developed a friendship with the legendary boxer. 

All instructed, Walker performed 1,032 video games over 13 seasons with the Nationals, Sixers and Bulls, and averaged 18.2 factors, 7.1 rebounds and a pair of.1 assists. He was named to the 1963 All-Rookie Group, made seven All-Star appearances and received one championship in 1967. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Corridor of Fame in 2012, and was an inaugural member of the Bulls’ Ring of Honor in 2023. 

Thought to be a “first-class gentleman,” by Jerry West, Walker shall be remembered for ceaselessly altering the sport, each on and off the court docket. 

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