In 1993, Bill Walton was inducted into the basketball hall of fame. On Halloween of that same year, Dick Latvala released the very first volume of Dick’s Picks. What connects these seemingly disparate events is more than just Walton’s legendary love for all things Grateful Dead. As the NBA superstar and equally legendary broadcaster has revealed, he’s the one who originally connected Latvala with the Dead.
The revelation came during an in-depth and wide-ranging interview Walton gave to the Pardon My Take podcast in 2017, with the basketball legend spinning an amazing tale from the ‘80s about following the Dead to Red Rocks for three days of camping and music. When the opening night show was drenched with torrential rain, the band was forced to relocate the next show to McNichols Arena in downtown Denver.
While at the show, Walton had an encounter that would change the history of the Grateful Dead as we know them: “I come around this corner, and there’s this guy. He’s walking right towards me. I look at him, and he has got this shirt on. We come face to face and we stop. And I looked at him and I said, ‘that is the coolest shirt I’ve ever seen in my life.’ This was like an airbrushed history of the world seen through the prism of the Grateful Dead. He just looked at me, doesn’t say a word, rips off his shirt and gives it to me.”
After the show, Walton was leaving the arena with the band when he spied the guy who’d given him the shirt--still shirtless. Suitably impressed, Walton plucked him from the fray of fans waiting backstage and brought him into the van with the band.
“We got back to the hotel, I introduced him to everybody all around, they looked at my shirt said, ‘Oh my god, that’s the coolest shirt ever, Bill,’ and they hired him on the spot. That was Dick Latvala, and he went on to become the curator of the vault. That’s the way all of our universe works. We just have to keep our eyes open.”