Bill Walton adored his bicycle and cherished his hometown of San Diego. He passed away at the age of 71 after battling cancer

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Bill Walton gestures in the game

Bill Walton was deeply connected to his hometown of San Diego. Even though he played basketball at UCLA and in the NBA for most of his career, he always showed love for San Diego.

Even after retiring from basketball, he remained a positive figure in San Diego, often seen riding his bike around town. Many locals knew him not just for his unique broadcasting style but also as the tall guy who brought humor to a Padres game once.

“I’m passionate about my bike, San Diego, and solar power,” Walton would often say during his appearances for various causes.

On Monday, the NBA announced Walton’s passing at the age of 71 due to cancer. Known as the “Big Redhead,” he achieved great success, winning NCAA championships at UCLA under John Wooden and earning the NBA MVP award in the 1977-78 season. He also won championships with Portland and Boston.

Despite his fame, Walton was remembered fondly by many on social media for his approachable nature, often stopping for autographs, smiles, and even lengthy conversations with fans at games, concerts, or airports.

Despite the foot and back injuries he faced during his NBA career, Bill Walton remained active later in life, even as he started to show signs of aging. He enjoyed riding his bike and often brought a custom high-backed chair to concerts and basketball games.

Bill Walton smiles in the game

In 2016, he was excited to learn that the Amgen Tour of California would begin in San Diego. He rode his custom bike, painted with Grateful Dead artwork, from his home near Balboa Park to the waterfront news conference.

He referred to himself as a “joyrider” and once participated in the entire tour, completing as much of each leg as he could before nightfall.

A life-size bronze statue of Walton and his bike can be found at Ski Beach Park in Mission Bay.

Standing at 6-foot-11, Walton was believed to be the tallest Deadhead in the world. He claimed to have attended Grateful Dead concerts 849 times. His home near Balboa Park, where he lived for over four decades, was decorated in tie-dye and served as a shrine to the Grateful Dead, complete with a teepee in the backyard.

On August 8, 2019, some Padres fans had a memorable experience during Grateful Dead Night. Bill Walton joined a local tribute band, Electric Waste Band, to play bongos on a stage set up beyond center field at Petco Park. Although his ceremonial first pitch missed its mark by several feet to the left, Walton asked for another chance and successfully threw the ball to reliever Trey Wingenter.

Sporting a Padres-themed Grateful Dead shirt, Walton then participated in the lineup card exchange at home plate with managers Bud Black of the Colorado Rockies and Andy Green of the Padres. His interactions with the umpires led to a brief delay in the game, as he fist-bumped them and engaged them in conversation.

Walton grew up in La Mesa and gained recognition for his basketball skills at Helix High School. All four of Walton’s sons followed in his footsteps, playing college basketball. Chris Walton played for Steve Fisher at San Diego State, while Luke Walton played at Arizona and later became both an NBA player and head coach.

Walton’s older brother, Bruce, who passed away in 2019, had a short-lived career with the Dallas Cowboys.


By Brian Anderson

Hi myself Brian, I am a second-year student at Symbiosis Centre of Management Studies, Noida, pursuing a BBA degree. I am a multi-faceted individual with a passion for various hobbies, including cricket, football, music, and sketching. Beyond my hobbies, I possess a keen interest in literature, particularly fictional books, and channels my creativity into content writing. I am constantly exploring the realms of both business administration and the world of imagination through my diverse pursuits.

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