Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Just A Good-Ole Boy

Anyone who watched Jason Williams play basketball couldn't help but be impressed.  The game of the 6 foot 1 point guard from Belle, West Virginia was as aesthetically pleasing to witness as any player you'd ever see.  That's not to say he was one of the Greats to play the game, but Williams' style made him
impossible to miss on the court & must-see TV.  Here is this short, white kid with a bald head, thick southern-country accent and tattoos making moves that'd take the breath away from a Globetrotter.

Virginia has always been a hotbed of basketball talent.  From Moses Malone to Allen Iverson, the "Old Dominion" state has produced a bevy of hoops superstars.  Jason played high school ball at DuPont High, now Riverside High School, with Randy Moss and amassed 1000 points & 500 assists.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrL6PqJjvBQ&feature=share&list=FLQQyDeBvV-6QaRQVNNGd8GA

Early in his NBA career Williams became famous for his streetball-esque style of play.  He was the And-1 MixTape of the NBA.  It was the kind of basketball most
purists and coaches frowned upon.  Style over Substance.  Flash over Fundamentals.  But the Sacramento Kings and coach Rick Adelman made it work.  Chris Webber and Vlade Divac were the big guys who could dish and score.  Williams, Stojakovic and Doug Christie formed a dynamic back-court, capable of running you out of the gym every night.  From '98 to 2001, the Kings were the NBA's highlight reel.  They became arch-rivals with the Lakers, whom ousted the Kings from the playoffs three straight years (2000-02).

Jason Williams never made an NBA All Star Team, but he did eventually figure out a way to balance his creative flair with a more efficient approach.  After being traded from the Kings to the Grizzlies, Williams received some tough love from Hall of Fame coach Hubie Brown.  Brown taught Jason to focus on the fundamentals of point guard play.  Williams cut down on his turnovers and improved his shooting percentages by slowing his pace and shooting under control.  The Grizzlies made the playoffs for the first time in 2004 and Brown won coach of the year, but Williams was again traded the season after.

In 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'neal, Williams helped the Miami Heat win their first championship.  He was the starting point guard on a veteran-deep team that included Hall of Fame PG Gary Payton.  J-Dub embraced his role as an efficient facilitator.  The run & gun, quick-fire style that got him noticed and made him famous was now an afterthought.  Jason Williams won an NBA Championship ring playing smart basketball.

Jason Williams was no Stockton.  He's no Isiah Thomas or Magic Johnson.  If I play arm-chair psychologist I think he could have been great, but Jason may have been a prisoner of perception.  He achieved notoriety and fame for his stylized play.  His whole life he was 'the white boy' who played like a street-baller.  From afar I infer Williams was always trying to gain acceptance.  For the majority of his career, instead of improving his game year-to-year I think Jason struggled with dropping the Flash, his identity, rather than just focusing on learning to play good basketball.  Still, from a relative perspective he had a great basketball career.  Williams' pride and joy are his family so there are no struggles remaining.

I still haven't seen anyone else on an NBA court with the moves Jason had.  He wow'ed the crowd and turned a dead franchise into a Basketball town.  Jason Williams played Basketball like an Artform.  And those of us who can't perform with such artistry will always admire the ones who can. 

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