YouTube recognizes him as Special FX, the dunker, but former St. John’s Red Storm player Ryan Williams wants the world to know while he was once one of the best to do it, he does more than just dunk.
Before gaining fame as an explosive dunker on the streetball circuit, Williams was a kid from Queens with already established athleticism. Back then, his jumping ability had other unintended consequences besides opening doors for him.
“I was a kid that had a leaping ability at a young age and people took advantage of it and I wasn’t really taught the game,” says Williams. “I was just taught to stay down low, post up, rebound and dunk on people.”
His talent was enough to get him onto the team at St. John’s University from 2004-06, where he was able to work his way into some playing time.
Since then Williams, 29, has taken a less traditional route with basketball, gaining attention as the high flyer Special FX with the AND 1 Mixtape Tour in 2006. Williams is confident in how his abilities were at the height of his career, which his says was when he was around 23-25 years old.
“I was probably the number two dunker in the world,” says Williams. “I’m gonna give myself that spot after Air Up There and that 720.”
The respect he shares for his former AND 1 teammate Air Up There does not extend to NBA players in the League’s dunk contest.
“The dunk contest in the NBA, I really don’t respect it because first of all, Nate Robinson was an average person dunking – everybody else is 6-9, 6-10, 6-11, so that takes away from it,” says Williams. “You got these guys and they’re not really jumping that high. They’re jumping high, but they’re not jumping that high because they’re already at the rim. They’re not very innovative, all those dunks. Except for the dunking with the two baskets, everything else has been done.”
Since leaving the AND 1 tour and touring with Ball4Real inbetween, Williams has found a home with Ball Up in 2008, another traveling streetball team, and remains with them today. While his opinion of the NBA’s dunk contest is evidence that he still feels strongly about the craft of dunking, these days, Williams’ desire to participate in the act that earned him his nickname has diminished.
“I’d rather go in the gym and shoot jump shots,” says Williams. “I’ve been doing it [dunking] so long it kind of gets boring.”
In addition to embracing his complete game as a ballplayer, Williams wants to take advantage of opportunities presented him outside of just playing basketball.
“What they’re doing with Ball Up is giving us all opportunities after basketball to still work and I’ve really taken to it,” says Williams. “I like the acting part, I really want to get into acting and motivational speaking and modeling, stuff like that.”
A desire to explore all sides of the entertainment industry might be the result of being labeled one-dimensional in his basketball game in the past, or it may just be smart business.
“It’s not just about basketball,” says Williams. “It’s about branding yourself and having a life after basketball because we all know after the ball stops bouncing a lot of guys are in trouble.”
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