Neal Eugene Walk (July 29, 1948 – October 4, 2015) was an American college and professional basketball player who was a center in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for seven seasons during the late 1960s and 1970s. Walk played college basketball for the University of Florida, and still remains the Florida Gators' all-time rebounds leader.[1] The Phoenix Suns picked Walk in the first round of the 1969 NBA Draft, and he played professionally for the Suns, the New Orleans Jazz and the New York Knicks of the NBA.

Early life

Walk was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to Miami Beach, Florida, with his parents at the age of 6. He attended Miami Beach High School, and played high school basketball for the Miami Beach Hi-Tides.

College career

Walk accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played for coach Tommy Bartlett's Florida Gators men's basketball team for three seasons from 1966 to 1969. In his junior season, Walk led the NCAA with 19.8 rebounds a game and average 26.5 points per game.[1] As a senior team captain, he led the Gators to the 1969 National Invitation Tournament—their first-ever post-season tournament. When Walk graduated from Florida, he was the Gators' all-time leading scorer, and still maintains the team records for career rebounds (1,181), average points per game (20.8), and rebounds in a single game (31), among others. His No. 41 jersey remains the only number to have been retired by the Florida basketball program.[2]

Professional career

Walk was drafted in the first round (second pick overall) of the 1969 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, after they lost a coin toss with the Milwaukee Bucks for the number one pick, which turned out to be Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).[3]

He played for the Suns from 1969 to 1974, averaging a career best 20.2 points per game and 12.4 rebounds per game in the 1972-73 season.[1] Walk was traded to the then New Orleans Jazz, and subsequently traded to the New York Knicks, where he played for two seasons. Afterward, he went to play in Venice, Italy, then in Israel with Hapoel Ramat Gan.[4]

Life after the NBA

In 1988 it was discovered that Walk had a benign tumor enveloping his spine. Following surgery Walk was left in a wheelchair, from which he played wheelchair basketball for the L.A.-Phoenix Samaritans in the Southern California league of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.[3] In 1990 Walk was honored at the White House by U.S. President George H. W. Bush, as the "Wheelchair Athlete of The Year."

He later worked for the Phoenix Suns in the Community Affairs department.

Walk is in the Miami Beach Senior High School Hall of Fame, a "Gator Great" in the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame,[5] and inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Bruce Weber (October 5, 2015), "Neal Walk, Who Rebounded Coast to Coast, Dies at 67", The New York Times 
  2. ^ http://www.gatorzone.com/story.php?id=6296
  3. ^ a b AJHS honors state's Jewish athletes, January 5, 2001
  4. ^ All time scorers - Neal Walk (Hebrew)
  5. ^ F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

External links