Basketball legend and iconic Grateful Dead fan Bill Walton passed away on Monday at 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer, and tributes continue to pour in from across the worlds of music and sports. Remembrances of Walton have been posted by members of the Grateful Dead and Dead & Company, whom Walton reportedly saw 1,000 times throughout his life, in addition to various notable figures from the worlds of sports, politics, broadcasting, and more.

Veteran Grateful Dead members Bob WeirBill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart all wrote touching remembrances of their late superfan and personal friend. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann noted, “There are incredible stories about Bill Walton that I promised him I would only tell after he passed away, and it’s not nearly that time yet because before we laugh, first we must allow ourselves to cry.” Instead, Kreutzmann remembered how Walton shunned labels like the Dead’s “number one fan,” instead insisting “the Grateful Dead was not a competition — and that all Deadheads were equal.”

“Bill was a genuine fan that became a genuine friend and someone I always looked up to,” Kreutzmann wrote. “But his towering presence was more than just literal. Whenever I play, there will now always be a hole where a seat should be, about ten rows back, center, where Bill used to stand, eyes closed, arms raised, while he felt the music running through him. That was a happy place for him and seeing him out there was one of mine. We never did have a hard time finding him in the crowd.”

 

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Related: Bill Walton Pens Heartfelt Remembrance For Jerry Garcia

In a post of his own, fellow drummer Mickey Hart wrote, “Bill was my best friend, the best friend I ever had. He was an amazing person, singular, irreplaceable, giving, loving.” While Walton often said that he was the luckiest man in the world, Hart contended, “it was us who were lucky—to know him, to share the adventure with him.”

“He was the biggest Deadhead in the world and used our music as the soundtrack to his life,” Hart remembered. “After our shows, he would regularly send messages that said, ‘thank you for my life.'”

 

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Singer-guitarist Bob Weir went simple for his post, writing, “Yo Bill, thanks for the ride. Thanks for the wonderful friendship, the years of color commentary – and the Hall of Fame existence that you wore like headlights. Bon voyage ol’ buddy. We’re sure gonna miss you – but don’t let that slow you down…”

 

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Walton’s love for the Grateful Dead community extended well beyond the 30-year run of the original band. With the current incarnation of Dead & Company, he continued to served as a source of inspiration for the band’s members, including new recruits like guitarist John Mayer and bassist Oteil Burbridge. Mayer reflected on all the encouragement he received from Walton since the guitarist joined the Grateful Dead circus nearly a decade ago.

“The climb to acceptance is steep in the Grateful Dead universe, and Bill gave me a huge lift up those stairs with his kindness, his encouragement, and his friendship,” Mayer wrote. “He will be so deeply missed, but his approach to life will never be forgotten. I think it’s pretty good advice that when times get tough, everything will be okay if you just pretend to be Bill Walton.”

 

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Oteil took to social media to share his memories of how Walton impacted his life, writing “It seemed like Bill Walton’s favorite thing to do was to inspire people to love life as much as he did. Whether it was in the joy of athletic competition or following the Grateful Dead. He made us want to embrace all the challenges that come in life with zeal and passion so we can truly savor our victories.” He also livestreamed a Monday afternoon solo tour through the Dead Forever Experience in Las Vegas on Instagram during which he spoke about Walton on various occasions.

“He brought out the best in people,” Burbridge remembered. “If his name ever came up in conversation everyone broke out into a big smile. His joy was as infectious as his gratitude. He never failed to inspire me to drop whatever self pity I had that day.”

 

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The feelings of loss extend beyond the band into the Grateful Dead family, literally, as Bobby’s daughter Monet Weir remembered “Father Time” in her post. In the post-Jerry Garcia years, Walton often took on the role of Father Time—originally played by legendary San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham—at the band’s New Year’s Eve spectacles.

“I feel like every show myself/the crowd would be that much more excited when you’d see the entire torso of Bill Walton just floating above the sea of bobbing heads waving his arms to the music,” Monet wrote. “Always so kind and excited and full of fist bumps. I guess Father Time has just transitioned into the same thing in the spiritual sense.”

Walton’s influence on the music world extended well beyond the Grateful Dead community. Additional posts have popped up from Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Creedence Clearwater Revival bandleader John Fogerty, and singer-songwriter Michael Franti also eulogizing the late music-lover.

“I was caught off guard and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of great human, NCAA and NBA legend and champion for the arts, music and humanity Bill Walton,” Franti wrote. “Thanks for your wisdom, humor and kindness. Very few people love music and basketball as much as Bill. Thanks for setting a great example for me.”

 

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Walton’s legacy also reached the world of politics. He was remembered in posts by former Senator Al Franken and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—who also happen to both be avid Deadheads. Franken called Walton “a sweet giant of a man with a sweet and giant spirit” while Pelosi praised how Walton “brought excellence, grit and joy to everything he did — from basketball to broadcasting to political advocacy.”

Of course, Bill Walton’s influence on the worlds of basketball and broadcasting cannot be overstated. Even after his legendary playing career in both college and the pros in the ’70s and ’80s made him a consensus candidate as one of the greatest centers ever to play the game, his work as an in-game broadcast analyst endeared him to further generations of sports fans. His boundless enthusiasm shined through his color commentary, his passion for the sport often just as much fun to experience as the game itself. Fellow commentator Stephen A. Smith remembered his colleague in a post, writing, “His game was ahead of its time, truly one of the greatest big men who ever played. Yet, nothing compared to his passion and love of life, itself.”

 

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Fare you well, Bill Walton. We love you more than words can tell.