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Former Bullet Greg Ballard passes away at age 61

Greg Ballard, a member of the 1977-78 Washington Bullets squad that won the franchise’s only NBA championship, died Wednesday after a battle with prostate cancer at the age of 61.

The Bullets selected Ballard with the fourth overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft, and he paid immediate dividends for the team in his rookie season. He averaged 4.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game his rookie season, and delivered when the team needed him in the NBA Finals, particularly in Game 6. He came off the bench and helped spur a run in the second quarter that helped the Bullets pull out to a big lead. He finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds in the game that helped the Bullets force Game 7.

Ballard played 8 seasons with the Bullets and holds several high marks in the franchise’s record books. He’s currently the team’s all-time leader in steals, he’s third in games played, fifth in rebounds, and tenth in points. He only missed 13 games during his eight year career in Washington.

Ballard stayed in basketball after his playing days were over. He spent time as an assistant and scout for the Hawks and Wizards. Former Wizards coach Randy Wittman had this to say about Ballard to Steve Aschburner of

“As big as Greg was, he was such a soft-natured guy, he always had a smile on his face,” said former Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who worked with Ballard in Dallas, Minnesota and D.C. “Even at the end of August, he was sure he was gonna beat this.”

Wittman, who spoke with Ballard last week, added: “Nicest person I ever met. I’d never known if Greg was having a bad day. You could kick him in the [groin] and he’d be as happy as he could be.”

Other people in the basketball community have shared memories and condolences on Twitter throughout the day.