Legends Spotlight: Jerome Williams

June 20, 2017

How did you get involved with the Big3 League? Well I actually found out about it seeing Ice Cube on ESPN promoting the league. From there I talked to my friend Roger Mason, who is the commissioner [of the Big3 League], and he spoke about some opportunities to get involved with the Big3 in a number of different capacities. Basically, I live in Las Vegas and I heard that they were out in Las Vegas doing a combine [at UNLV in the Mendenhall Center] the night before. I went up there and actually they gave me a jersey. I wasn’t prepared for that! I was walking around with my jersey; I didn’t do any drills, I didn’t warm up, I didn’t take any shots, but I was having fun interacting with my fellow comrades.

When it was over, FOX5 and FS1 Sports were doing a quick filming of an actual game. They wanted to simulate an entire three-on-three game and needed an extra player, so they asked me to play, and upon a 30-minute stretch I went out there. I was playing with Corey Maggette and Cuttino Mobley, who ended up drafting me with the #6 pick in the first round. So to make a long story short, I must have made some sort of impression [laughter] on those two captains and co-captains of the Team Power in the Big3 and the rest was history.

I’ve already interviewed a couple of former players who are going to play in the Big3 League, and you by far had the best story of how you made it onto a team [laughter]. You talked about playing with Corey Maggette and subsequently were drafted by his team. What’s the team dynamic at this point? Have you guys started practicing yet? Two days ago I was in LA and we had another game that we simulated. It was myself, Ruben Patterson, Andre Owens and Demarr Johnson versus Keyon Martin, Rashad McCants, Rashard Lewis and Larry Hughes. Kenyon Martin might have scored 7 points total, but his trash-talking was probably worth another 10-15 because he was unlimited! And he had Gary Payton as his coach, so that’s like double the trash-talk! The confines of being able to play defense in a limited amount of space, being able to create continuity with guys, it’s really tough to give one team a clear advantage over the other. Obviously there are players who might be better in certain areas and different things, but when you condense it to half court and then add a four-point shot and these other dynamics, the hand-checking and trash-talking, it becomes something serious.

It’s exciting because you get to see guys like Allen Iverson, “White Chocolate” [Jason Williams], Jermaine O’Neal; the names in the league are former All-Stars and Hall of Fame coaches like the “Iceman” [George Gervin], “Dr. J” [Julius Erving], Clyde “The Glide” [Drexler]. I mean where are you going to get to see all these guys at one time? It’s not like we’re going to separate cities and separate continents, we’re all in one gym at one time for all the fans to see. It’s great!

You’re like a human billboard for this! So were there any players in particular that impressed you at the Big3 Combine? Yeah definitely! Andre Owens and Rashad McCants; they were the top two picks in the draft and they came ready to play. These guys can still play in the NBA if they wanted to. They’re a lot younger; did I mention that I’m the second oldest player in the entire league at 44? I don’t know what I’m doing out here [laughter]. But I’m having fun, I’m bringing back the Dog Pound. But those two players were definitely the most impressive based on what they are able to do offensively in the half court setting, it’s tremendous. Rashard Lewis; I mean he still looks like he’s 19 jumping above the rim, hitting threes. He hit a four-point shot on me, I was like “No!” [laughter]. He almost hit a four-point shot on me to win the game, luckily he missed and then I was able to get the final bucket to win the game.

Were there any players who you were impressed by that didn’t get drafted? Probably Joe Smith and Etan Thomas. I was pretty shocked when both of those guys didn’t get picked. Also my former teammate, Kendall Gill. When he came in there he was in playing shape. We played together with the Chicago Bulls.

You mentioned earlier the legendary players that will be coaching these three-on-three teams. Did you grow up idolizing any of these players?
Absolutely! Those first three I named. Dr. J was my mentor before I even got to the league. “Iceman” George Gervin, I mean everybody had the poster; he’s cold with it! And then Clyde “The Glide,” everybody got a touch of his aerial tactics. Those guys are synonymous with class and Hall of Fame attributes. Then you got your favorites like Gary Payton, Charles Oakley my former teammate in Toronto and battles with him in New York. Of course my big pops Rick Mahorn; he’s the one who gave me my nickname “The Junkyard Dog.” To see him coaching now is crazy [laughter].

What will it mean to you to get to play team basketball on national television again? You know it’s one of those things where you feel really honored and blessed that the lord even allows me to be able to play at this age at a high level and competition on national television. It’s going to mean a lot. My kids were too young when I was playing in the NBA, they were two and three years old. So they don’t fully remember them going to the games. But now they get a chance to see what the Dog Pound is really about when I step back out there on the court and hear those dogs barking in all these cities. That’s when it’s going to come back to reality to them like “Oh no, this is what it was” [laughter].

I didn’t know, until you said so, that you were the second oldest player in this league. Do you feel like you have something to prove by playing in the Big3 League? Like showing the other guys you’ve still got it despite the age? Absolutely! You’ve got to tell them man! Yep second-oldest next to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf who was drafted in the third round and he’s 47 and I’m 44. I can admit there’s a lot of fans out there that were cheering for me as far as barking in my Dog Pound that wish I never stopped playing. I stopped playing at the age of 31 or 32 back in 2005. I haven’t played in front of a crowd for money since 2005. I’ve done charity games; I’ve done my Shooting for Peace Tour that I do with the high school kids by giving out scholarships. That still goes on but I’m just playing against some high school kids [laughter]. And of course my coaching at Findlay Prep and sending guys to the pros, that was one of the fun things I’ve done since I’ve been out of the league. But to be back out there in front of a crowd and getting paid to do it is quite extraordinary at my age.

We’re going to switch gears from the Big3 questions towards the NBRPA. As the NBRPA Las Vegas Chapter President, how do you help the NBRPA to fulfill its mission to assist former players in their transition into life after the game as well as impact communities and youth through basketball? There’s a lot of different ways that I contribute the Retired Players Chapter in Las Vegas. One is that I help to create programs in schools for kids and after school programs. We do charitable events including the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, feeding the homeless, delivering presents during Christmas, we do clinics for kids with autism here in Las Vegas, we tour a university, we have teamed up with Vegas Ballers Basketball Bootcamps and we do those clinics after schools every week all the way through the school year.

There’s other things for the retired players who are here and they want to stay active or they need to get reconnected with programs with the Retired Players Association. We developed a reading program to deliver scholarships, called Shooting for Peace, where kids write poems in their schools and get challenged by retired players that come out and participate in a charitable basketball game. It’s just fun to see all the legends come out and strap those shoes back on and get out there to mix it up with some high-flying high schoolers [laughter]. AND we were undefeated! Just so you know.

I see you interned at a D.C. firm while at Georgetown in 1995 and was also appointed by George W. Bush in 2004 to serve as a global youth representative. Why has it been important for you to be so involved with youth and communities within a leadership capacity? Well you know it’s been very important for me to get involved with youth just for the mere fact of my past. I didn’t have any scholarship offers coming out of high school. That really gave me the drive to want to help youth because if I had given up, I would have never become an NBA player. But I stuck to education, I kept at it and allowed it really be the champion in my life. Through that I was able to get a scholarship to Georgetown. Playing alongside future Hall of Famer and League MVP, Allen Iverson, didn’t hurt and now I’m teaming up with him again in the Big3. But that’s really why I go out there and support the youth so much because I just remember when I was young and had to make grown-up decisions about going out to get a job. That’s why I go out there and mentor kids to stick to their dreams, whatever they are, create their goals and work hard towards them because the only person standing between you and your goals is you.

Why do you think former plays should join the NBRPA? I think former players should join the NBRPA because it’s one way that you can see some of your old friends, similar to that locker room experience, there’s nothing like it. There’s no one like us on the planet. If you want to see and interact with people who understand the same things and have similar stories of perseverance and hard work, this is the only place you can do that. I don’t know of any other clubs that involve retired players the way this does. So that would be my main reason for signing up.

We’ll get you out of here with this last question. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received in your career? The best advice I’ve ever received in my career is putting God first in your life, above all else. Without my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t be anything. I wouldn’t be able to do the things I’ve been able to do. My life has been an honor and blessing; still being blessed to this day with health, positive family, and a life I’ve always dreamed about. It all came through my commitment to Christ. So that would be the one piece of advice that I would give anybody. Young, old, it doesn’t matter; that would be my advice.