In Memory

Chet Walker1940-2024Class of 2012


Speed, strength, toughness and a deft shooting touch - Chet “The Jet” Walker was the complete package, which is why the teams he graced in the 1960s and ‘70s were among the best in the NBA. Walker, a 2012 Hall of Fame enshrinee, died on June 8 at age 84, according to the National Basketball Players Association. 

Known by casual fans for his role on the Philadelphia 76ers’ record-setting NBA championship team in 1966-67, the seven-time All-Star succeeded at every stop and developed a reputation as a player who could score whenever needed, often over and around befuddled defenders who mistakenly thought they could stymie him.

“He had as good a pump fake as you ever saw in your life,” former 76ers teammate Billy Cunningham once said. “You know what he’s going to do, and you’d still leave your feet, and the coach is saying, ‘What the devil do I have to do to tell you to keep your feet on the ground?’”

Walker arrived in the NBA in 1962 after scoring 1,975 points at Bradley University - still No. 4 on the school’s all-time list - where he had led the Braves to the 1960 NIT title. The two-time All-American fit in seamlessly as an NBA rookie, averaging 12 points at small forward for the Syracuse Nationals. But it was after the team relocated to Philadelphia that Walker became a key piece on one of the NBA’s greatest teams. 

With Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Wali Jones, Lucious Jackson and Cunningham, Walker helped the 76ers win 26 of their first 28 games and finish 68-13, at the time the best single-season mark in league history. Walker averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds during the regular season, rang up 26 and 12 in the semifinal clincher against Boston - dethroning the eight-time champs in the process - and averaged 23 points in the finals against a San Francisco Warriors team led by Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry.

Philadelphia won 62 and 55 games, respectively, the next two seasons before Walker was traded to Chicago. In the Windy City, Walker helped transform the Bulls from an also-ran into a Midwest Division powerhouse that finished third in the division his first season and never below second in his final five seasons. 

Epitomized by hard-nosed guards Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier, the Bulls were one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league but also perennially one of the league’s best defensive teams. In the opposite of a run-and-gun atmosphere, Walker never averaged fewer than 19 points per game for Chicago, and never shot worse than 80 percent from the free-throw line.  

Former Bulls teammate Bob “Butterbean” Love remembered Walker as “one of the greatest face-up one-on-one players to ever play the game. First was Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, then Chet Walker.”