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Chet Walker, Hall of Famer who sued the NBA, dies at 84

Sports

Chet Walker waited a long time for Hall of Fame enshrinement. He believed he was blackballed. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Chet Walker, a Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls great enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame, has died, his former teams confirmed Saturday. He was 84 years old.

Walker, nicknamed “Chet the Jet” for his speed on the court, earned NBA All-Star honors in seven of his 13 seasons as a professional, winning a championship in 1967 with the Sixers. He didn’t miss the playoffs once in his career, which ended after he settled a lawsuit against the Bulls and the NBA.

Chet Walker spent the first 7 seasons of his Hall of Fame career with our franchise & delivered a championship in ‘67. Affectionately nicknamed “The Jet,” Walker made a profound impact in our city & within our League.

Our condolences go out to the Walker family & their friends. pic.twitter.com/jbc9ZHQyYt

— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) June 9, 2024

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Chet Walker, a legendary figure in our team’s history.

An inductee of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Chet left an indelible mark on the court and in the hearts of fans. During his six seasons with the Bulls from 1969 to 1975, the… pic.twitter.com/NKK2x7N6cu

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) June 9, 2024

The Mississippi native played at Bradley University in college, where he led the Braves to NIT championships in 1957 and 1960. He twice earned unanimous first-team All-American honors and left Bradley as the school’s all-time leading scorer. He remains fifth on the team’s current list.

The Sixers, then known as the Syracuse Nationals selected Walker in the second round, 12th overall, in the 1962 NBA Draft. After a successful rookie year, the team moved to Philadelphia, where Walker evolved into a perennial All-Star.

With Wilt Chamberlain leading the way and Walker and Hal Greer serving as co-stars, the 1967 Sixers became the first team since 1958 to defeat the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, taking them down in five games in the Eastern Conference finals. The Sixers proceeded to defeat the San Francisco Warriors, who left Philadelphia the previous decade, in the NBA Finals for the franchise’s second championship.

Walker was traded to the Bulls in 1969 in exchange for Jim Washington and continued to excel, helping lead Chicago to the playoffs after its struggles in its first few seasons of existence.

That career ended in contentious fashion in 1975 when the Bulls denied Walker’s request for a $200,000 annual salary. He then demanded to be traded or released and took the Bulls to court when they refused, taking the team and the NBA to court over alleged antitrust violations.

Walker ended up with a settlement and opted to retire, later finding a second career as a writer and movie producer. Meanwhile, the Bulls went from winning 47 games the previous 1974-75 season to 24 wins in 1975-76.

It took decades for Walker to enter the Hall of Fame despite having a compelling case, and he told the Chicago Tribune in 2007 that he believed he was blacklisted due to his lawsuit and leadership role in the players union.

Walker was finally enshrined in 2012, at the age of 72.