“The Last Dance” documentary is over and now we all await the day that NBA basketball can be played again.
In the meantime, reminiscing is all we’ve got. With that in mind, there’s one former player that’s uniquely qualified to speak about Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ first three-peat as well as Allen Iverson and the dark days of the Sixers.
Scott Williams, a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast Monday, spent 15 seasons in the NBA — four with Chicago and parts of five in Philadelphia. He was a rookie during Jordan’s first title run, and he was on the floor when Iverson crossed over the living legend.
In fact, if it wasn’t for Jordan, Williams might not have had an NBA career. Jordan invited Williams, who went undrafted after four seasons at North Carolina, to a scrimmage with NBA pros like Charles Oakley and Rod Higgins.
It was at that scrimmage that Williams earned himself a longer NBA look.
We find ourselves down one late in the game, I’ve got the ball in my hands — I believe it was off an offensive rebound because they really didn’t throw the young college kid the ball very much — and fire one of these textbook, two-hand chest passes that Dean Smith taught me right over to M.J., who’s on the baseline about 19-20 feet out and he goes up, tongue out of his mouth, patented Jordan form on the jumper, right up over the defender and cans the bucket for the win. So he’s the one that makes a call to Jerry Krause leaving that game saying, ‘Hey, I think Scott Williams might be able to help us out.’ …
“I always say I am the luckiest undrafted player in the history of the NBA, if there is such a thing.
Williams was there for the Bulls’ first three-peat and was the only rookie on that 1990-91 team. Because of that, players like Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant rode him hard.
While Williams was on the wrong end of Jordan’s competitive wrath a time or two, he doesn't share the same views as some of his former teammates. Jordan had yet to earn a championship when Williams first arrived in Chicago, and his drive was at an unparalleled level.
Williams didn’t see it as Jordan being a bully. He saw it as a guy that wanted to win at any cost.
One thing I will say is, Jud Buechler had kind of a big thing where he said, ‘Guys were afraid of Michael Jordan.’ Well, I don’t think I was afraid of Michael Jordan. I loved being his teammate. He was hard on me — not the way he was hard on Scott Burrell, but he was hard on me being a Carolina guy. …”
“That was one side of him. He’d get on you. I remember having a holey sweater one day and he said, ‘I could play 18 holes on your sweater. Nine holes on the front, nine holes on the back.’ Just embarrass you in front of the team and stuff like that. But that was M.J. The same cat would call me up my first year in the league and say, ‘Hey Scottie, Juanita’s cooking dinner. Come on over. … We’re gonna break some bread, have a few beers. Watch the basketball game on TV and shoot pool.’ So that was the other side of it. … There was a double-edged sword to that, and everyone’s got their own little stories.
There was one portion of the documentary about card games taking place on the team plane. While Jordan and a few others were playing high-stakes hands in the back, a few of the other guys were playing for a few bucks in the front.
Every once in a while, Jordan would sneak up front. It was said that Jordan was so competitive, he wanted to take everyone’s money, no matter how small the amount.
As an undrafted player that wasn’t making much, Williams was with the guys in the front. While he conceded that Jordan did enjoy the notion of taking other guy’s money, it was about more than that.
He didn’t have to come up here and start playing with us. Yeah, he maybe wanted to take a few bucks off you so he could have some bragging rights on the bus ride to the hotel and what not, but I think he did it more from the standpoint of, ‘I want to be a part of what you guys have going on here, too.’
For more from Williams, listen to the latest edition of the Sixers Talk podcast below.
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