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Former Bull Chet Walker going into Hall of Fame
by Sam Smith
Posted on Feb 24
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It was perhaps the most curious deal in Bulls history, and it probably was the effective beginning of big time pro basketball in Chicago.
And Thursday the principals in the deal, Pat Williams, who became Bulls general manager, and Chet Walker, were honored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Williams was named winner of the 2012 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, and Walker received direct election by the veterans’ committee for the Hall of Fame Class of 2012.
At a press conference in Orlando, the Hall of Fame also announced the finalists for the Class of 2012, who include former Bulls coach Dick Motta and Chicago native guard Maurice Cheeks. All time NBA winningest coach Don Nelson and three point specialist Reggie Miller also are finalists. The inductees will be announced at the Final Four in April. Enshrinement in Springfield is in September.
The Bunn award went to former Bulls media executive Brian McIntyre last year and in 2009 to legendary Bulls announcer Johnny Kerr. It is the most significant award outside enshrinement. Previous winners include Red Auerbach, John Wooden and Pat Summitt.
Walker was part of the core of the first great Bulls era after being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers with Shaler Halimon for Jim Washington. Walker, who was second leading scorer on the great 1966-67 Philadelphia team led by Wilt Chamberlain that was 68-13, and went on to be named to four NBA All-Star teams with the Bulls.
Combining Walker with Bob Love, Jerry Sloan and later getting back Norm Van Lier, the Bulls from 1970-71 through 1974-75 became one of the league’s powers in averaging more than 50 wins per season.
“We scared a lot of people in that five year run,” Walker said with a laugh Friday. “We should have upset the Lakers when they won those 33 in a row. We should have beaten Golden State (in 1975). That was the team that kind of laid the foundation for basketball in Chicago.”
Walker said the irony was Walker and Williams came as a package from the 76ers. “I always tell Pat I’m the reason why he was successful,” Walker said with a laugh.
Walker, who turned 72 Wednesday, admitted word of his impending enshrinement is exciting. But it also was bittersweet because of the loss of family members in recent years.
“I wish my brothers could be here to enjoy this,” said Walker. “I did have the same statistics for awhile. So it is a little sad. But overall it’s a very good thing.”
Walker has long been regarded as one of the more overlooked stars despite seven All-Star games, a pair of NIT titles while at Bradley and a career average of more than 18 points.
Walker says he’s more recognized as a Bull, although he made three All-Star teams with the 76ers and won a championship. “I loved Chicago,” said Walker, who now lives in Los Angeles. “I made so many great friends there. You play with Wilt you are not getting a lot of publicity.”
Walker was known as “Chet the Jet,” which always was curious given his specialty was the many head and shoulder fakes. “I was more rhythm than fast,” says Walker. “My name was Chester and they were just looking for something to rhyme with ‘Chet’ when I was in college. Everyone had to have a nickname.”
Now, finally, it’s the Hall of Famer Chet Walker.