DimeMag

We Reminisce: White Chocolate

What’s the best compliment you can receive? Most people get the wrong idea. Words are soft. Normally, the best compliments are never spoken, and sometimes never consciously thought. They’re subconscious. You start doing certain things or acting a certain way or start dressing a certain way or even start playing basketball a certain way unintentionally. You start to emulate.

Last night might’ve been the beginning of the end. Even though they’ve had five years of ineptitude, before that the Sacramento Kings had come to represent everything fun and entertaining about this new generation of basketball. Run-n-gunning, threes, ball movement, forget the fundamentals, lets hijack the scene. Now, it might all be over. The move to Anaheim could kill the Kings as we know them, but it won’t kill history.

Some of our readers questioned me last week when I wrote the “We Reminisce” piece on the old Sacramento Kings, specifically the 2002 team that nearly won a championship. They asked, “How do you not mention Jason Williams?” or “One line? He needs more than that.” You’re damn right he needs more than that. I did that for a reason, for fear that if I started down the White Chocolate path, he would take it all over, would outshine everyone. Now that I am writing this, it’s actually hard. Everyone has that player they grew up with and emulated. Now try telling why.

You couldn’t go halfway with J-Will. You had to go all in or all out. You couldn’t celebrate the behind-the-back flicks if you didn’t do the same with the missed 35-footers. It’s not the plays we still celebrate. It’s the player. It’s the attitude. He used to get hate for his outbursts, like the time in Sacramento he got into it with fans or the time in Memphis he snatched a reporter’s pen away and told him he wasn’t getting any interviews or the time in Orlando he went so wild even Matt Barnes had to laugh. We loved it.

Before his back gave out, back before his knees weakened, he would fly around the court like a crazed hyena, never slowing down, never thinking, playing on instinct and whipping the ball around his head, through his legs, left-to-right, to a trailer, to the wing, to the rim. People loved seeing him break off Gary Payton in Seattle or pulling out the cuffed, fake-behind-the-back. No one pushed it harder at a more frenetic pace, no one had the same high dribble and no one had the same purple Hyperflights. But his real fans, the ones who shaved their heads when he did, the ones who watched his tapes for hours to try to perfect his pull-up jumpers or even the ones who only wore the knee bands because he did, they relished the craziness more than the highlights. They remember the stuff they can’t remember, not the plays you see on YouTube, but the blown passes or the wild long jumpers, all the stuff that is forever lost, buried somewhere deep inside that arena.

He was the basketball-dribbling Pootie Tang. Some people won’t ever understand. They won’t get the draw, how a skinny dude with a dragon tattoo on one shoulder and a panther on the other, from the heart of West Virginia, could dribble a ball with the swagger of a pimp, could make another skinny dude with no tattoos from rural western Maryland do the same, could make that kid put on garden gloves, sneak into empty racquetball courts with no light besides a tiny window, and dribble for hours, watching his shadow.

Whenever you talk about Jason Williams, there are always the people who come out to tear him down. He was a “loser.” He was “all style, no substance.” He was “overrated.” He was a “troublemaker.” All wrong. He wasn’t a loser. In fact, he was the opposite, part of the resurgence in Sacramento and Memphis and a starting point guard on a championship team in Miami. Even with career averages of 10.5 points and 5.9 assists, his impact can’t be overrated. He was the flashiest point guard to ever play the game and one of its greatest ballhandlers. Haters gonna hate though.

When he moved on from the purple, Williams went on to have his best individual years and went on to win a championship. But something in him never left Sacramento. It’s still there now, engraved into the city and team’s history, and won’t ever leave.

“The experience of watching Jason Williams every night could not be matched by anybody,” Zach Harper of the popular Kings blog, Cowbell Kingdom, says. “He was not a great player by any means, but he was a great experience to have.

“To get to live in this city and see the way his brand of basketball galvanized the fans here was truly something special. I think the thing that embodied him the best was when he fired the pass from the right wing to Corliss Williamson down low for a basket against the Jazz. It was a bullet pass for an easy basket but he backpedaled up the court while screaming at the Kings fans as everybody went nuts. That was him in a nutshell.”

About a week ago, Memphis reported that Williams will miss the rest of the season with a back injury. It’s likely we’ve seen the last of his crossovers. All we might have left are memories. There will probably be another Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. You can bet there will be another Dwight Howard, another Chris Paul, another Carmelo Anthony. There will never be another Jason Williams.

What is your favorite Jason Williams highlight?

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