NBA legend Bill Walton was a New York Knicks believer before many others were

Bill Walton forever!
New York Knicks, Bill Walton
New York Knicks, Bill Walton / Allen Berezovsky/GettyImages

The world lost a giant on Monday. Bill Walton passed away at the age of 71 after a battle with cancer. In the basketball world, he's most remembered for the two NCAA titles he won at UCLA, his 1978 MVP, and two NBA titles, one of which came with one of the New York Knicks' most hated rivals.

After retiring from the NBA, Walton worked as a broadcast analyst. He spoke about the game in a way that nobody else could. Even his text messages were unique. The Hall of Famer leaves a void that no one else can fill.

Walton regularly attended league events, like 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend. He tuned into NBA games regularly, including the Knicks. Last season, before New York's first playoff series win in over a decade, he talked about how much he loved the Knicks on "Throw it Down with Bill Walton."

Little did Walton know (or maybe he did) that New York would follow up the 2022-23 season with its first 50-win season in 11 years. The Knicks clinched the No. 2 seed in the East, which was impressive given the injuries that piled up.

Bill Walton understood that basketball is better when the Knicks are good

The last two seasons prove that no matter how well New York plays, most people don't take the Knicks seriously. Maybe it's because, for so long, they were the league's laughingstock. Leon Rose's arrival changed that.

Rather than view New York as the team it was in the past, Walton embraced what the Knicks were in the present and was hopeful for their future. Basketball is more fun when the Knicks are good; this past season was proof of that.

Walton said he liked the "toughness" of New York's squad last season and specifically called out Julius Randle, who he said he met as a rookie in Los Angeles. If he liked the 2022-23 roster, he loved the 2023-24 roster after the trade deadline. The front office assembled the perfect Knicks roster that embodied toughness.

As Bill said, hopefully, the run will continue. There's a lot of reason to believe that it will after what should be a busy 2024 offseason.