Members of the Grateful Dead have paid tribute to the late Bill Walton on social media. Walton, an NBA Hall of Famer, broadcasting star and longtime Deadhead, passed away on May 27.

The very first Dead concert Walton went to was in 1967 when he was 15 years old — the same year the band released their debut album — and he simply never stopped. Over the course of his life, Walton attended approximately 850 Grateful Dead shows (per Rolling Stone) and could often be found wearing tie-dye to televised basketball games or singing their praises as a DJ on the band's Sirius XM radio channel. (Counting Dead & Company shows, Walton attended over 1,000 in total.)

"One of the endless great things about the Grateful Dead is how they are able to take this sad, cruel, brutal, hard world with all this pain and isolation, and make you feel better," Walton explained of his passion in 2022. "They are able to put a big splash of beauty on it. It's not just the music, it's the fans, the artwork and the happiness of being part of the team. Whether it's 'Mission in the Rain,' 'Standing on the Moon,' 'Stella Blue' or the endless other songs, I go to them for a lot of different reasons: to be educated, to be stimulated, to gather strength, to gain confidence. I go to be healed."

It didn't take long for the Dead to begin noticing Walton at their shows — his six-foot-eleven figure stood out in the crowd.

"He was the only one in the audience," drummer Mickey Hart once recalled. "I thought everybody else was sitting down, and of course they were standing up, and he was standing up too."

READ MORE: Top 10 Grateful Dead Shows

Following Walton's passing from cancer at the age of 71, members of the Dead shared their condolences online.

"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," Bob Weir posted. "Bon voyage ol' buddy. We're sure gonna miss you — but don't let that slow you down..."

"Bill was my best friend," Hart wrote. "He was an amazing person, singular, irreplaceable, giving, loving. He called himself the luckiest man in the world but it was us who were lucky —to know him. There are things you can replace. And others you cannot."

"Bill was a genuine fan that became a genuine friend and someone I always looked up to," Bill Kreutzmann said in his own post. "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."

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Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

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