NBA / big3
My Favorite NBA Player of All-Time: Jason Williams AKA White Chocolate
Image Source The backyard behind my house ended where a basketball court began. I spent my summers as the only white kid playing ball at Lacrone Park in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Most kids in the area knew me as White Mike, but a few called me White Chocolate, which I took as a compliment. I describe my role on a basketball court as the "passing guard." I admired players like Magic Johnson and Pistol Pete Maravich who found creative ways to get their teammates the ball, and was never confident enough in my shot to take more than a few occassional three-point shots each game. Because of this, when watching the NBA, I looked for other creative players who were great passers. While others looked up to Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Karl Malone, my favorite player of all-time was and is Jason Williams, also known as White Chocolate. I remember sitting in the back of health class as a teacher's assistant in middle school waiting for the dial-up internet to load so I could watch the top 10 plays on NBA.com. Nearly every day during his first few seasons there was something he did that no one had ever seen before like a perfect pass off of his elbow. The 6'1 180-pound point guard will never stand out on a list of statistics, but when looking at his highlights and remembering the excitement he brought to the game, there's no denying his impact on the NBA during his 12 seasons in the league. Background Coming out of DuPont High School in Belle, West Virginia, Williams wasn't even the most famous player on his basketball team. He shared the spotlight with NFL HOF wide receiver Randy Moss. The two led DuPont to the state finals in 1994. Image Source: Gazette Christopher MillerWilliams initially committed to play for Providence College, but never played a game for the Friars after coach Rick Barnes took the head coach position at Clemson. Instead, Williams followed in the footsteps of his high school teammate Randy Moss and went to Marshall University to play for Billy Donovan. His talent stood out, and when Donovan took the coaching job at Florida University, Williams transferred, sacrificing a year of eligibility to play for the coach he admired. In the one season he played with the Gators, he led the team in points per game (17.1), assists (6.7), and steals (2.7). He was suspended for the final few games of the season for drugs (marijuana), but that didn't impact the NBA's interest in him. NBA Career Image Source: Slam MagazineJason Williams was selected 7th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, who would soon become my favorite team to watch. His number 55 also became my favorite to wear in all sports. Jason's rookie year was an impressive one. Surrounded by talent in Chris Webber, Peja Stojokavic, and Vlade Divac, Williams averaged an impressive 12.8 points per game, nearly 2 steals (1.9), and 6 assists a game. Williams finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, ahead of Paul Pierce but behind legend Vince Carter. Williams was later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, who were then the Vancouver Grizzlies, where he continued to make an impact due to his superior passing skills, but the talent around him was not enough to contend for a title. He was traded to the Miami Heat in 2005, and the move couldn't have been a better fit. Scoring 12.3 points per game, Williams was the third leading scorer behind Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. After beating the Mavericks in 6 games, White Chocolate was able to raise the NBA Championship trophy (his one and only). Image Source: NBA.comWilliams' career began to decline after the 2005-2006 season, but he was still exciting to watch. He played two more seasons with the Heat before retiring in 2008. Williams then unretired to play for the Orlando Magic in 2009 and played in all 82 games. He ended his career back in Memphis in 2011. Williams finished his NBA career with 8,266 points, 933 steals, and 4,611 assists, not bad for a 6'1 guard. Jason Williams Today Five years after retiring from the NBA, Jason Williams joined the new Big 3 league to play for the 3 Headed Monsters. A knee injury in his very first game derailed his season and he has yet to return. Despite his flashy play on the court and tattoos including "whiteboy" across his fingers, Williams is quiet off the court, spending time with his family and three children. Highlights The term "human highlight reel" certainly applies to White Chocolate. If not for the NBA, I could've seen Williams make a name for himself in the AND1 Live Tour. His fancy moves were often criticized due to turnovers and missing open shots and passing lanes, but for a fan, it was hard not to want him to show off. Why I Love Jason Williams Jason Williams was not a normal NBA talent. He didn't have an effective jump shot, he wasn't the fastest player or the strongest; he used his creativity to set himself apart from other point guards in a way that endeared him to fans and made stars in the league look silly. He is one of the reasons I love sports. Just when we think we've seen it all, something happens that blows our mind. White Chocolate will always have a special place in the sports compartment of my heart. Who is your favorite NBA player of all-time and why? Comment below!