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Walter (Wally) Frederick Walker (born July 18 1954, in Millersville, Pennsylvania) is an American former professional Basketball player. Walker is best known for his National Basketball Association career - both as a player and as a front office executive - for the Seattle SuperSonics.

Collegiate careerEdit

A prolific frontcourt scorer, "Wonderful" Wally Walker led the University of Virginia Cavaliers to its only Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship and its first NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship berth in 1976.

He is the only Cavalier to receive the Everett Case Award as the ACC Tournament's Most Valuable Player following Virginia's upset of three nationally-ranked teams en route to the ACC title. Enjoying one of the finest individual seasons ever by a Cavalier cager during the 1975-76 season, Walker scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the 1976 tournament championship game against the University of North Carolina.

Walker's scoring average of 22.1 points during the 1975-76 season ranks as the sixth best in UVa history and his 1,849 career points is sixth on the all-time Cavalier list. He was a first-team Academic All American in 1976. His number 41 was retired by Virginia. The Portland Trail Blazers took him in the first round of the 1976 draft, the fifth overall pick.

Playing careerEdit

His playing career averages were 7.0 points and 3.1 rebounds [1] during eight years with Portland, Seattle and Houston. He did, however, have the good fortune to win two championship rings (with Portland and Seattle) in his first and third seasons. He was a starter for the Sonics in 1981-82 and the next season for the Houston Rockets. After retiring in 1984, Walker enrolled in Stanford Graduate School of Business, graduating in 1987 with an MBA. He worked for seven years at Goldman Sachs [2]and also started his own money management business, Walker Capital, before returning to the NBA in the early 90s as a part-time TV commentator and consultant for his former team, the Seattle SuperSonics, owned by Barry Ackerley.

Front officeEdit

Following the 1993-94 NBA season, Walker was named by Ackerley to be President and General Manager of the team. The Sonics continued to be successful for the next four seasons with a roster built primarily around Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, Sam Perkins, Nate McMillan and Hersey Hawkins, with Hawkins as a Walker acquisition. In 1997-98, the Sonics won the Pacific Division with a record of 61-21 and Walker finished second in Executive of the Year voting.

Walker's standing with Seattle fans became strained following the Western Conference Championship 1995-96 season when Walker signed unproven center Jim McIlvaine to a seven-year, $33.6 million contract. Walker, who bucked public opinion by retaining George Karl in 1995, perplexed some fans by not re-signing him a decade later. Karl went on to appear in seven playoffs between 1999-2007 as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets. Karl led the Bucks to within one win of the NBA Finals in 2001, although he was fired after the 2003 season, one year after a major in-season collapse. During the 2003 season, the Bucks traded star guard Ray Allen, along with Flip Murray, Kevin Ollie and a first-round pick that became Luke Ridnour, to the Sonics for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason. McIlvaine was traded after two seasons with the Sonics. While he didn't live up to his hefty contract, the team won the Pacific Division both years, 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 – the 1998 team was a complete rebuild with only three players remaining from the previous year’s roster – even if he was only on the court an average of 16.6 mpg, had well-below-league-average PERs (11.1 and 9.5, respectively), and was a substandard rebounder for his size (rebounding Rates of 13.5 and 12.8; [3]).

In September 2002, Walker was ranked, along with Rick Sund, 21st out of the 29 NBA front-office GMs (and lead front office personnel) by ESPN's panel of experts. [4] During that time, the Sonics team was built on a payroll that was below the league average yet yielded a return-on-investment that was among the league’s best in terms of dollars per win. Over the six-year period, the Sonics average cost per win was the 8th best in the league at $1.1 million per victory, including a low of $850 thousand per victory for the 1999-2000 season. [5] During the six-season stretch between 1998-99 and 2003-04 seasons, however, the Sonics made the playoffs twice, getting eliminated in the first round each time.

In 2004-05 the Sonics won the Northwest Division with a record of 52-30, the fourth Division Title that the Sonics won while Walker was team President, with a roster composed exclusively of players he acquired. During the twelve seasons that he held the title of team President, the Sonics had the fifth-best winning percentage (59%) in the NBA, behind only the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Utah Jazz and the Indiana Pacers. The Sonics' winning percentage between 1998-2006, dipped to 51.7%. Sonic drafts between 1998 and 2003 were rated the best in the NBA by The New York Times, though some of the talent was traded or allowed to leave as free agents, such as Desmond Mason, Bobby Simmons, Earl Watson, Corey Maggette, and Willie Green. During his 12 years as president, the Sonics selected future NBA starters and reserves Eric Snow, Mark Blount, Earl Watson and Mikael Gelabale, all in the second round. He signed free agents including Terry Cummings, Aaron Williams, Ruben Patterson, Reggie Evans, Antonio Daniels and Damien Wilkins, many of whom later signed higher contracts after moving on from the Sonics. Over 12 years, while never drafting higher than the 10th pick, Walker supervised the drafting of Rashard Lewis, who became an All-Star in 2005. Walker had at least one All Star on the Sonics' roster each of his 12 years as President. He also served as President of the WNBA Seattle Storm, who won the WNBA championship in 2004.

During the 2005 offseason, following the franchise's first 50-win season in 7 years, popular head coach and former Sonic player Nate McMillan signed a contract with a Northwest rival, the Portland Trail Blazers. A month earlier with the blessing of the Sonics organization, long-time assistant Dwayne Casey, a potential successor as head coach if McMillan were not to re-sign, agreed to be the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Walker and then-GM Rick Sund eventually filled the vacancy with assistant Bob Weiss. Weiss was fired in January of the following season, after going only 13-17. Walker and Sund replaced Weiss with assistant Bob Hill, who coached the team to a 22-30 record.

In an October, 2005 article with local sportswriter Frank Hughes [6], Walker stated, "I am responsible for all of it" in reference to his power and decision-making within the organization. On October 31, 2006 the Sonics were sold to a group from Oklahoma City led by Clay Bennett, which ended Walker's front office tenure and minority ownership with the team.

Walker was part of five of the Sonics’ six division-winning teams: one as a player (1978-79); four as team president (1995-96, 1996-97 1997-98, 2004-05). And he is one of only two people—player, coach, and/or member of the front office or staff—to be part of all three of the Sonics’ Western Conference Championship seasons (1977-78, 1978-79 and 1995-96); the other person is trainer Frank Furtado.

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