The NBA shared a collective shock when the news of Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton’s death first broke Monday, including from his Boston Celtics teammate of two seasons in Larry Bird.

Bird, a pillar of Celtics basketball, was a six-time All-Star in the prime of his career when Boston swung a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers to acquire Walton in 1985. The two well-established champions joined forces and won their final title, defeating Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the 1986 NBA Finals — Boston’s 16th title at the time.

Walton’s time in Boston was short-lived, but Bird had plenty to say about his former teammate and friend.

“I am very sorry about my good friend, Bill Walton,” Bird said, as transcribed by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “I love him as a friend and teammate. 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 ever to 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 sorely be missed. My family and I extend our sincere condolences to the Walton family.”

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Joining a stacked Celtics roster, regarded by many as the all-time greatest in franchise history, Walton played alongside Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge and Rick Carlisle. The mission was simple that season although it would require Walton to take a backseat, which the then-33-year-old had no issue committing to. Walton played predominantly off the bench, logging 80 appearances and two starts during the 1985-86 regular season.

Graciously accepting the role, Walton flourished as a game-changer.

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Walton averaged 7.6 points on 56.2% shooting from the field, 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists, winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award; the second of three Celtics to ever win — McHale and Malcolm Brogdon are the other two.

But Walton’s two years playing in Boston wasn’t the end of the legend’s submergence into the team or the city. When the Celtics reached the Finals in 2022, Walton was in attendance for Game 3, sitting and cheering alongside Boston fans after riding public transportation to TD Garden.

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Walton was 71 years old and died after a long battle with cancer.

Featured image via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images