Jason Williams retired yesterday. I know, slightly above-average point guards don’t typically inspire remembrances. Especially if they’ve already retired once, haven’t been a starter in the NBA for over three years and played for three different teams in their final season. But from the beginning of his career to the end, things were rarely typical when it came to the player known as “White Chocolate.”
At one time, Williams represented a radical change in the NBA. He first rose to prominence at the very end of the Jordan Era, a skinny six-footer with absurd handles and incredible court vision. He wasn’t traditional, with his signature “white boy” tattoo across his knuckles and trademark streetball flair, but Sports Illustrated deemed it appropriate to compare him to Pete Maravich in his second NBA season. NBC put him on the same stage as Iverson in their pre-game promos. Don’t forget that prior to that, he was teammates with Randy Moss in high school ball.
He played for an exciting, up-tempo Kings squad that became the cult team of the late 1990s. While not yet fully formed, they showed flashes of the squad that challenged the Lakers for dominance in the early years of the 2000s. Ironically enough, while his free-wheeling style made him a perfect match stylistically for those teams, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Mike Bibby just as the team was on the verge of challenging for a crown. His career, while solid, never reached the highs that his talent seemed to promise. But at one point in time, Jason Williams was a phenomenon. He may be leaving the NBA stage today, but he’ll be remembered for the energy, flash and excitement he brought to the game.