The sports world was met with sad news today, May 27: Bill Walton, basketball hall-of-famer and NBA legend, is dead at 71 years old after a battle with cancer. This is a noteworthy loss for the music world, too: If you know two things about Walton aside from his basketball achievements, one is that he had an unceasingly optimistic and offbeat personality. The other is that he was perhaps the world’s biggest (both in terms of enthusiasm and physical size) Grateful Dead fan.

Naturally, when Dead & Company — an offshoot band featuring some original Grateful Dead members, John Mayer, and others — launched nearly a decade ago, Walton was all in. This means Mayer has gotten to know Walton a bit, and back in 2023, he spoke about his experiences with the sports icon.

Mayer was Walton’s guest on an interview-style NBA broadcast in January 2023, and he reminisced about Walton speaking to him before taking the stage for a Dead & Company show. It was very Bill Walton.

Mayer said, “You know, it’s really just him being very laser-sharp. When Bill gives you advice, he looks you dead in the eye and everything stops, and he speaks with this cadence: ‘Go out there, give it your absolute all. Don’t be shy, they are here to watch you play. Go play to the greatest of your ability.’”

Mayer also noted that Walton gave him “some of the greatest compliments I’ve ever been given,” including “some very nice things that sent me on stage with a lot of confidence.”

Dead & Company, by the way, is in the midst of a run of shows at Sphere in Las Vegas.

Check out the Mayer/Walton clip above and revisit more of the broadcast below. Basketball fans have also been sharing their favorite clips of Walton, so find some of those here.



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