Neal Eugene Walk, born July 29, 1948 and died October 4, 2015.
Neal was a former American college and professional basketball player who was a center in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for seven seasons during the late 1960s and 1970s.
Neal played college basketball for the University of Florida, and still remains the Florida Gators’ all-time rebounds leader.
The Phoenix Suns picked Neal in the first round of the 1969 NBA Draft, and he played professionally for the Suns, the New Orleans Jazz, and the New York Knicks of the NBA.
Neal was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to Miami Beach, Florida, with his parents at the age of 6.
He attended Miami Beach High School, and played high school basketball for the Miami Beach Hi-Tides.
Neal accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played for coach Tommy Bartlett’s Florida Gators men’s basketball team for three seasons from 1966 to 1969.
As a senior team captain, Neal led the Gators to the 1969 National Invitation Tournament-their first-ever post-season tournament.
When Neal graduated from Florida, he was the Gators’ all-time leading scorer, and still maintains the team records for career rebounds (1,181), average points per game (20.8), and rebounds in a single game (31), among others.
Neal No. 41 jersey remains the only number to be retired by the Florida basketball program.
Neal was drafted in the first round (second pick overall) of the 1969 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, after they lost a coin toss with the Milwaukee Bucks for the number one pick, which turned out to be Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
He played for the Suns from 1969 to 1974, was traded to the then New Orleans Jazz, and subsequently traded to the New York Knicks, where Neal played for two seasons.
Afterward, Neal went to play in Venice, Italy, then in Israel with Hapoel Ramat Gan.
In 1988 it was discovered that Neal had a benign tumor enveloping his spine.
Following surgery Neal was left in a wheelchair, from which he played wheelchair basketball for the L.A.-Phoenix Samaritans in the Southern California league of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
In 1990 Neal was honored at the White House by U.S. President George H. W. Bush, as the “Wheelchair Athlete of The Year.”
Neal later worked for the Phoenix Suns in the Community Affairs department.
Neal is in the Miami Beach Senior High School Hall of Fame, a “Gator Great” in the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, and the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Neal Walk died at age 67 on October 4, 2015.