The surviving members of the Grateful Dead have paid tribute to the late NBA legend Bill Walton.

The band took to their official Instagram account and shared various photos of the Hall of Famer in the crowd and on stage with the group while dressed up in costumes. Walton passed away on May 27 at the age of 71 in his home in San Diego following a battle with colon cancer.

“Fare you well, fare you well, we love you more than words can tell,” began the statement shared on the Dead & company Instagram page. “Bill was an irreplaceable force and spirit in our family. Father Time, Rhythm Devil, biggest deadhead ever. Over 1000 shows and couldn’t get enough. He loved this band and we loved him.

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“We will miss our beloved friend, @BillWalton, deeply. Rest in peace and may the four winds blow you safely home.”

Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir took to his own Instagram and paid tribute to Walton. “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,” he wrote.

Mickey Heart – the band’s percussionist – also shared a heartfelt tribute to the late and beloved Deadhead. He began his message by referring to Walton as “the best friend I ever had” and adding that his love for the Grateful Dead’s music was “beyond description”.

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“He was the biggest Deadhead in the world and used our music as the soundtrack to his life. After our shows, he would regularly send messages that said, “thank you for my life.” Over 1000 shows, he just couldn’t get enough,” he continued. “Bill had an incredible passion for drums. After any meal at his house, we would play. There was nothing like a Bill Walton… nothing. There are things you can replace. And others you cannot. Bon voyage, old friend, I love you.”

Bill Kreutzmann – Grateful Dead’s drummer – wrote a lengthy post in honour of Walton, revealing that he has “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. Darn it. This is a mournful day. This is a period of mourning.”

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He ended his tribute with “losing Bill is an irreplaceable loss and, in simple terms, I am heartbroken. When somebody means that much to you, when their friendship is that important – that’s called love. I loved Bill Walton. As we say in the land of the Dead: May the four winds blow him safely home.”

As per USA Today, Walton first saw the eclectic rock band perform when he was 15 years old in 1967, the same year they released their debut album ‘The Grateful Dead’. While speaking to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Walton revealed had been to over 800 Grateful Dead gigs in over 48 years.

Kreutzmann has refered to Walton as the “Celebrity Deadhead Number One”. Speaking to USA Today, Walton explained: “The Celtics and the Grateful Dead represent so much of everything I believe in, live for and try to do with my life.”

He continued: “Because of the culture Red [Auerbach] had built, the Celtics were a family organization. The Grateful Dead, that’s a family as well. They both have the ability to inspire, encourage and to allow you to be you and to become something that is bigger and better and more important than you as an individual.”

In other news, Grateful Dead recently opened their residency at Las Vegas’ Sphere with an epic visual feast that drew on 60 years of history.

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