Thursday, June 13, 2024

Dead and Company Honor Bill Walton at the Sphere

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Late NBA great and consummate Deadhead Bill Walton received a special tribute during Dead and Company’s performance at the Sphere in Las Vegas on Thursday, May 30.

The moment came during Dead and Co’s rendition of “Fire on the Mountain,” during which the Sphere’s immersive screen was already displaying a virtual scrapbook filled with archival Grateful Dead memories. The crowd then erupted in cheers when a photo of Walton in a tie-dye Dead shirt appeared on the screen.

As Dead and Co. jammed out “Fire on the Mountain,” a montage of photos followed showing Walton throughout the years with members of the band, enjoying shows from the crowd, and in costume at Dead Co’s New Year’s Eve shows as Father Time (a tribute to the character Bill Graham used to dress up as on the same occasion). 

Walton died Monday, May 27, at the age of 71, after a battle with cancer. Along with all the remembrances coming in from the basketball world, several surviving members of the Grateful Dead — Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann — all shared heartfelt statements. “Thanks for the wonderful friendship, the years of color commentary — and the Hall of Fame existence that you wore like headlights,” Weir wrote. 

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John Mayer shared a tribute as well, thanking Walton for helping him find his place within the Grateful Dead universe after joining Dead and Company. “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.

Walton’s devotion to the Dead was legendary. He purportedly saw over 850 shows during his life (and even helped sort through recyclables), wore tie-dye shirts to announce basketball games, and DJ’d on the band’s SiriusXM channel. In 2021, he was inducted into the Dead’s “Hall of Honor,” which the two-time NBA (and NCAA) champion, league and finals MVP, and career Hall of Famer later called the single most important distinction he’d ever received.  



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