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Providence great Jimmy Walker dies at 63

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Walker was a magician with the basketball

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

I was truly saddened by the news of Jimmy Walker's passing.

Some people today might ask who Jimmy Walker was. Let me tell you, in the mid-1960s, he was way ahead of his time. Guys like Walker and Earl "The Pearl" Monroe could play in any era.

Jimmy Walker was flamboyant, spectacular, one of the greatest ever at Providence College, a school that has produced a number of stars. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1967 NBA draft, ahead of Monroe and Walt Frazier.

When Walker had the rock in his hands, he made beautiful music. Playing for three different NBA franchises in a nine-year pro career, he averaged just under 17 points per game, with two seasons over 20 points a night. He was dynamite and his ballhandling skills were exceptional. It was magical watching him perform on the court.

He could shoot the ball, a cut above everybody else. It was the collegiate level where he truly established himself. He averaged over 25 ppg. in his three seasons with the Friars, including 30.4 ppg. in his last season as a first-team All-America in 1967. Walker was a special talent, unique in every way.

It was also established that Walker was the father of Jalen Rose, the long-time NBA guard and member of Michigan's Fab Five. Rose was a great in his own right.

As a young guy following basketball, the thing I remember most about Walker was his ability go behind his back and between his legs with the ball, long before it was fashionable. As I said, he was well ahead of his time; he would fit in well with today's flashy athletes.

My sympathy goes out to the Walker family on his passing. He will be missed -- and fans who never saw him handle the rock missed out on something very special.

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