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The Sports Report: UCLA and NBA legend Bill Walton dies

Bill Walton arrives to watch his son, Luke, debut as head coach of the Lakers in 2016.
Bill Walton arrives to watch his son, Luke, debut as head coach of the Lakers in 2016.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Ben Bolch: Bill Walton once said his dream Final Four field would include five Pac-12 Conference teams. He repeated the motto “Conference of Champions” on basketball broadcasts as if he was being paid by the number of references he could fit into one game.

It wasn’t an act — it was Walton being Walton, as colorful as one of the tie-dye shirts the avowed Grateful Dead fan loved to wear.

Walton, the giant redhead whose basketball prowess at UCLA and in the NBA was surpassed only by his zest for life and all its absurdities, died Monday while surrounded by family after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 71.

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“The world feels so much heavier now,” fellow legendary Bruins big man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) alongside a picture of the two men smiling with their arms draped across one another. “On the court, Bill was a fierce player, but off the court he wasn’t happy unless he did everything he could to make everyone around him happy. He was the best of us.”

Long after he won two national titles under John Wooden with the Bruins and was selected to the NBA’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams, Walton remained a constant presence in the game he loved as both a broadcaster and de facto ambassador for his alma mater and the Pac-12.

Visible from across any arena, the lumbering big man walked with a hitch in his stride in his later years but always enjoyed dispensing advice to young Bruins players before games and tossing T-shirts to students in the crowd. When fans called out his name inside Pauley Pavilion, Walton would raise both of his giant arms skyward in triumphant acknowledgement.

Known for being gracious with his time, the man who won two NBA titles and was selected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame often made everyone around him feel like the star.

“I never had a better friend, and there are hundreds of others who feel the same way,” longtime Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler wrote on X in tribute to the 6-foot-11 center who spent three years with the team when it was based in San Diego before following it up the 5 Freeway for its debut season in Los Angeles in 1984-85. “He leaves a giant hole in our hearts.”

Plaschke: Bill Walton’s kindness and wonderful wackiness made us the grateful ones

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DODGERS

From Jack Harris: After having their Sunday game in Cincinnati delayed by rain, the Dodgers never even made it on the field Monday in New York, with their Memorial Day game against the Mets getting postponed by weather.

The teams will instead play a double-header Tuesday at Citi Field, before concluding the three-game series Wednesday.

Tyler Glasnow will start Game 1 of Tuesday’s double-header, which will start at 1:10 p.m. PDT. Gavin Stone will start Game 2 of the traditional single-admission double-header.

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Shohei Ohtani misses pitching, but is DH-only role boosting his plate production?

Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. to miss the rest of the season after tearing his left ACL

MLB scores

MLB standings

NBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Conference finals

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Western Conference

No. 3 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Dallas
Dallas 108, at Minnesota 105 (box score)
Dallas 109, at Minnesota 108 (box score)
at Dallas 116, Minnesota 107 (box score)
Tuesday at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., TNT
*Thursday at Minnesota, 5:30 p.m., TNT
*Saturday at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., TNT
*Monday at Minnesota, 5:30 p.m.. TNT

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Boston vs. No. 6 Indiana
at Boston 133, Indiana 128 (OT) (box score)
at Boston 126, Indiana 110 (box score)
Boston 114, at Indiana 111 (box score)
Boston 105, at Indiana 102 (box score)

NBA Finals

Thursday, June 6 at Boston, 5:30 p.m., ABC
Sunday, June 9 at Boston, 5 p.m., ABC
Wed., June 12 at TBD, 5:30 p.m., ABC
Friday, June 14 at TBD, 5:30 p.m., ABC
*Monday, June 17 at Boston, 5:30 p.m., ABC
*Thursday, June 20 at TBD, 5:30 p.m., ABC
*Sunday, June 23, at Boston, 5 p.m., ABC

*-if necessary

FRENCH OPEN

Rafael Nadal lost in the first round of the French Open to Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Monday in what might turn out to be the 14-time Roland Garros champion’s last match at his favorite tournament.

Nadal has indicated 2024 likely would be his last season before retirement, but he said Saturday that he is not 100% sure he won’t play again at the French Open. And he reiterated that after Monday’s defeat, only his fourth in 116 career matches at the place.

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When it ended, in anticlimactic fashion, with 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal simply unable to play at his usual level after 1 1/2 years of hip and abdominal injuries, he thanked the raucous Court Philippe Chatrier crowd for the “incredible the amount of energy” it provided throughout the 3 hours, 5 minutes of play.

“It’s difficult for me to talk. I don’t know [if] it’s going to be the last time I am here. I am not 100% sure,” said Nadal, whose 1 1/2-year-old son, Rafael Jr., sat on his mother’s lap in the stands. “If it’s the last time, I enjoyed it.”

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HORSE RACING

From Eric Sondheimer: As Eagles Flight was walked from the detention barn toward the paddock at Santa Anita on Monday, the 3-year-old son of Curlin could look up and see a mural of his half brother, 2022 Horse of the Year Flightline. Expectations were high for Eagles Flight’s debut after a series of dazzling workouts, and let’s just say the future looks bright.

With jockey Flavien Prat aboard and sent off as the even-money favorite, Eagles Flight won the maiden special weight race for six furlongs by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:10.07. The way Eagles Flight pulled away in the stretch and overcame being in tight quarters and having dirt kicked into his face made trainer John Sadler very happy.

“He got about four races of experience in him from one race,” Sadler said.

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NHL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Conference finals

Western Conference
C1 Dallas vs. P2 Edmonton
Edmonton 3, at Dallas 2 (2 OT) (box score)
at Dallas 3, Edmonton 1 (box score)
Dallas 5, at Edmonton 3 (box score)
Wednesday at Edmonton, 5:30 p.m., TNT
Friday at Dallas, TBD, TNT
*Sunday at Edmonton, TBD, TNT
*Tuesday, June 4 at Dallas, TBD, TNT

Eastern Conference
M1 New York Rangers vs. A1 Florida
Florida 3, at New York 0 (box score)
at New York 2, Florida 1 (OT) (box score)
New York 5, Florida 4 (OT) (box score)
Tuesday at Florida, 5 p.m., ESPN
Thursday at New York, 5 p.m., ESPN
*Saturday at Florida, 5 p.m., ABC
*Monday at New York, 5 p.m., ESPN

Stanley Cup Final

Game 1: Saturday, June 8, TBD, ESPN
Game 2: Monday, June 10, TBD, ESPN
Game 3: Thursday, June 13, TBD, ESPN,
Game 4: Saturday, June 15, TBD, ESPN
*Game 5: Tuesday, June 18, TBD, ESPN
*Game 6: Friday, June 21, TBD, ESPN
*Game 7: Monday, June 24, TBD, ESPN

*-if necessary

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1956 — Dale Long of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a home run in his eighth consecutive game for a major league record. Long connects off Brooklyn’s Carl Erskine at Forbes Field.

1957 — NL approves baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers’ & NY Giants’ move to the west coast.

1978 — Al Unser wins his third Indianapolis 500, the fifth driver to do so, edging Tom Sneva by 8.19 seconds.

1985 — The San Diego Sockers beat the Baltimore Blast 5-3 to win the MISL title in five games.

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1995 — Jacques Villeneuve overcomes one penalty and wins by another in the Indianapolis 500. Villeneuve drives to victory after fellow Canadian Scott Goodyear is penalized for passing the pace car on the final restart.

2006 — Sam Hornish Jr. overcomes a disastrous mistake in the pits and a pair of Andrettis — Marco and father Michael — to win the second-closest Indianapolis 500 ever, by .0635 seconds.

2011 — Novak Djokovic extends his perfect start to the season at the French Open, beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 for his 40th straight victory this year. Djokovic’s 40-0 start to 2011 is the second-best opening streak in the Open era, which started in 1968.

2020 — The Boston Marathon canceled for the first time in its 124-year history. The race had originally been scheduled for April 20 before being postponed for five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Compiled by the Associated Press

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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