Bill Walton receives tribute from Dead & Company in first concert after his death


Bill Walton received what he might have viewed as the ultimate tribute from his favorite band on Thursday, just a few days after his death at the age of 71.

Dead & Company paid their respects to Walton to open the third week of their residency at Sphere in Las Vegas, transforming the video screen in the state-of-the-art venue into several images of the basketball icon.

The band’s big tribute to Walton came during the encore of Thursday’s show, when it played, “Fire on the Mountain.” Several images of Walton, Walton with members of the band and Walton at their concerts appeared on the picturesque video screen, with rose pedals falling around the pictures. At one point, Walton’s name and jersey number (32) appeared with tie dye coloring appearing in the name and number.

Prior to Thursday’s show, Dead & Company drummer Mickey Hart posted a message to Walton on social media.

“Tonight we pulse, we vibrate, we dance, for Bill. The BIGGEST deadhead in the world!” Hart wrote in a post with an image of himself with Walton.

The band also played a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” as guitarists from the band had Walton’s jersey number snickered onto their instruments.

As Hart pointed out, Walton was viewed by many as the world’s biggest “Deadhead,” a fan of the Grateful Dead and its spin-off band, Dead & Company. In his 2016 biography “Back From the Dead,” Walton wrote that he attended 869 Grateful Dead concerts. With Dead & Company’s emergence in 2015, it’s been speculated that Walton attended more than 1,000 concerts between the two hands.

Walton wrote that he attended his first Grateful Dead concert in 1971, when he was still in college.

“The music and the basketball were the exact same thing,” Walton wrote on why he enjoyed Grateful Dead so much. “You have a team with a goal, and a band with a song, and fans cheering because they’re happy, but also to make the players perform better, faster, and to take everybody further.

“During the game, during the song, everybody goes off, each in their own direction, playing their own tune. But then with the greatness of a team, the greatness of a leader, and the willingness to play to a higher calling, they’re all able to come back and finish the job together — to win the game and send the people out into the night ecstatic, clamoring for more.”

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Members of Dead & Company posted tributes to Walton on Monday, when it was announced he passed away after a battle with cancer.

“Bill Walton lived a life that the rest of us could only hope to achieve on our second (or third) go-round,” John Mayer wrote in a social media post. “He had an eye toward the truly important stuff, the stuff we already know better than to lose sight of, but often do. One of Bill’s great talents was to reorient you so as to stand bedside him and see the light in life that he refused to break eye contact with.

“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. 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. Thank you Bill.”


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