Neal Walk, a former NBA big man who played for the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans (now Utah) Jazz and New York Knicks, died Sunday at a Phoenix hospital. He was 67.
Paul Coro of AZCentral reported that Walk had been in poor health for some time. No official cause of death has been given at this time, but Coro wrote that Walk was hospitalized for "various medical reasons."
The Suns passed along their condolences early Monday morning:
Selected No. 2 overall in the 1969 draft, one spot behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walk averaged 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during his NBA career. He peaked during his five-year run with Phoenix, most notably averaging 20.2 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as part of a breakout 1972-73 campaign.
A trade to New Orleans in 1974 halted his trajectory, as Walk's averages fell off a cliff. He went from a nightly double-double (16.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 4.0 APG) to barely playing 20 minutes per game while splitting the 1974-75 season with the Knicks and Jazz. His career never rebounded following the trade, as he spent the 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons as a bit player in New York before his release.
A brief run in Italy ended his career, and he retired in 1978.
Walk had been in ailing health for most of the last three decades after a spinal cord surgery left him without use of his legs. A doctor had found a benign growth between Walk's shoulder blades, but complications from the surgery left him in a wheelchair for the final 28 years of his life.
He continued with the Suns organization as a community relations specialist and assistant photo archivist until his departure in 2012. Walk is survived by his wife, Georgia.
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