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Subscribe to NerdWallet's Smart Money Podcast. Who has coached, someone who has broadcasted, and more recently is now an author. Through the Fire is the name of the book.
You can pick it up on Amazon right now today. It is NBA veteran and legend, Scott Williams. Scott, how are you, man? JR, I'm doing fantastic and I appreciate you bringing me in like that, man. It made me sound real accomplished over the course of my time since I've left school. I appreciate that. I'm happy to be on your show. I appreciate the platform. I want to bring some awareness to my project, Through the Fire, a memoir of trauma of lost basketball and triumph and try to do some good for a couple of local domestic violence centers.
I hear you. So I understand that your inspiration to put this book together, like a lot of things that were born, was kind of born out of the pandemic. What happened at that point in time? And fill everybody in as to why you wanted to put this together.
Yeah, I guess you kind of, you know, you take a message, you try to make a message. Well, what happened was, you know, it was chosen for sports like everybody else. Michael Jordan released his 10 part documentary, The Last Dance, and I made my week around that. You know, what I was going to do for dinner and a bottle of wine I was going to crack open and start doing some podcasts and some some NBA TV stuff with some of my former teammates, BJ Armstrong, Stacy King, Will Perdue, and reminiscent about stories. And it just led to me putting some things on Facebook.
And then guys were like, I want some more of that. You should write a biography. I don't know the first thing about being an author.
I can't even spell it. And I happened to get a call from a guy who was working on a book. He wasn't a basketball guy, but he wanted to learn basketball terminology and philosophy and thought process.
This will help you with your book if you help me with mine. So I started telling about all my stories in the NBA. We got to take it back to before you were in the league. So we took it back to my childhood and started dealing with all of the abuse that I suffered.
My brother and my mother at the hands of my father. And it was real and it was kind of traumatic, but also therapeutic to put it down on paper. And I was nervous and apprehensive of wanting to share some of these things I've never shared with anybody in my life before. But it's it's authentic.
And I think people are connecting to that. And, you know, Coach Smith, who recruited me out of California, I was his first recruit west of the Mississippi, told my mother when I went to school that he'd look out for me. And he had no idea the first day of practice my sophomore year after my mother had separated from my father.
He'd have to knock on my door, give me the news that my dad found her in her apartment complex and turned a gun on her and then turned a gun on himself. Scott Williams is joining us. Three time champ with the Bulls telling us about his book Through the Fire. Scott's memoir of trauma, loss, basketball and triumph.
I know Dean Smith didn't just deliver that unfortunate news to you. Dean Smith, through his lessons, just just used basketball to to improve your life and keep you going. How did he contribute to that and how did basketball save your life and bring you to this point? Oh, yeah, I'm glad you asked because I I'm trying to honor Coach Smith and my mother by writing this book and putting it all out there. True to his word, he had built a culture at North Carolina, a family, and that family wrapped itself around me. And his practices were my therapy, having a lock into a Dean Smith practice and concentrate on all the things that he was teaching, banging with my teammates, Joe Wolf, J.R. Reid, Pete Chilcutt, Marty Hensley in practice every day, working to try to improve with Coach Williams 45 minutes before practice.
He would wear a salad and Coach Smith get a hold of us. And the great thing about North Carolina. Yes, we work hard.
We're competitive. Coach Smith was most competitive person I've been around. And he had an offensive emphasis of the day and defensive emphasis of the day. But most importantly, on that practice plan, everybody's responsibility to remember was the thought for the day.
And that literally had nothing to do with basketball whatsoever. It had to do with life. And one thought for the day that come up over the years from time to time would be repeated was it's never too late to do the right thing. And here I am some three decades later, finally be able to tell this story of the hopes that maybe I'll help a young boy or young girl or a young woman.
That's an abusive situation. Realize that you can lean on people for help the way I lean about Coach Smith and my Carolina family. Scott, I think that's an awesome message. I want to commend you for that. Even after your time at North Carolina, you went undrafted. Your time at UNC came after Jordan was already in the league. And it was actually participating in a charity basketball game that helped open up that door for you into the NBA. Tell us that story.
Small world. So, you know, obviously Jordan being a North Carolina alum as well had connections in the state. One of his good buddies, Fred Whitfield, who was a lawyer in Greensboro, very civic minded, community minded individual, was putting together a camp for underprivileged kids called Achievements Unlimited. And I had found out about this game that they played with Jordan. And he'd bring some guys from the Bulls and some guys from the newly expanded expansion team, the Hornets, would come up and play. And I said, well, I got to get in this game because if I'm going to make a chance of playing in the pros, I got to play against pro guys and see where I measure up. So I happened to be put on Jordan's team and got a rebound late in the ball game. And I don't say I dominated the game, but I got a good physical game from a guy that had just left the year before J.R. Reid. He gave me a good physical game and that's my style of play. So I showed real well. And moving him around and getting that offensive rebound and firing it over Jordan with the game on the line, of course, dude knocks down the shot, right?
Money. So as he's getting into his little red Corvette, I'll never forget that image with Fred Whitfield driving out of the high school. He calls Jerry Krause, the general manager of the Chicago Bulls, and says, I think you should give Williams a look-see. And I rode that to an invitation to the summer league. That's when we were at Loyola Marymount practicing that hot little box of a gym. From there I got the extension to the veterans camp and there were seven of us trying out for the last spot on the roster. Back then we only carried 12 guys and 11 were already under contract. So seven of us in the band one day, four the next day, and then it's just being another two. And then one day I got down in that band, I was the only one there, and I rode that all the way to the three championships.
I love it. Scott Williams is here with us, former Chicago Bull three-time champ, as he said, a 15-year NBA career. We hear so many stories about Jordan and his competitiveness. We even heard about still Isaiah Thomas and him just going back and forth, or maybe it's a one-way at this point.
What don't we know or what haven't we seen? Is there one story that would show a different perspective that you've seen from Michael Jordan that doesn't involve him being hyper-competitive? I love telling a hyper-competitive story, but one that I will tell that I think kind of got mistruth in the last dance. He used to play cards in the back of the plane with some of the guys. They play for larger sums of money. We play for up front, me, Stacey King, and B.J. Armstrong.
We play in five and ten hands of blackjack. He would come up to the front of the plane after playing in the back for a while. I just like the way he connected with everybody. He'd say, I'll be the bank.
You bet whatever makes you uncomfortable in a laughing matter. But he never wanted to separate himself from the team. He realized that there's not too many places out on the road, grabbing a bite to eat, where it's not a distraction for the rest of us to be able to have a good time. He was like a rock star. He was like a Beatle when he went out. He would draw a crowd anywhere he went. He had to pick his moments where he could connect with everybody on the squad. Whether it was me talking about North Carolina or Will Perdue about being down in the South and playing in Vanderbilt, laughing and joking with him that he just went to a brilliant academic institution, not really a basketball school.
I thought that was something that he probably learned from Coach Smith, that the superstar can't be bigger than the program. I thought that was a good way him connect. Sometimes we'd be out at dinner. All of a sudden we'd ask for the bill and it'd be like, it's already been paid for. Unless you see Jordan had slipped through the back door and had a table and a quiet little spot.
You see, he picked up the tab. Little things like that I think made for the camaraderie and the chemistry of the basketball club. We weren't like, hey, we're never going to get our names in the paper in front of Michael Jordan's.
With that spotlight so big it shines on all of us and we're happy to be a supporting troop. 15-year NBA vet Scott Williams is here with us. You played not just with Jordan, but over those 15 years you played with a relatively still young Michael Jordan. You played with Allen Iverson and then you played first couple of years with LeBron James. These are our superstars, hall of famers and legends.
Can you tell me three similarities or just one similarity that ties the three of them together and then something that makes them different? J.R., you're not going to get me to say a good thing about Allen Iverson ever. I love Michael Jordan, LeBron James. He was there all day, the work ethic, the thirst for knowledge, the competitiveness. I got a young Allen Iverson in Philadelphia who was all about Allen Iverson. He was bigger than the team, didn't care about the overall team success. He was on a mission for only looking out for him.
He should have been playing tennis or swimming. He was the worst teammate I ever had in 15 years. So the other two guys I'd love to whack Poetic on. I had a lot of love for them. There's a lot of debate on who's the greatest.
I write about that in my book. They're both phenomenal players. I love the way they approach the game a little bit differently. But Allen Iverson's not a guy you're going to get me to say a whole lot of good things about.
Wow. Scott Williams here with us. We see that a lot. That's something that's missed in the game today. And not necessarily a me first, a team first. We see that from a lot of guys. Do you feel that has changed over time or has that always permeated even back when you got started in the early 90's?
Allen, I got back started in the early 90's. It was, at least on most of the ball clubs that I was on, it was about trying to win. Sure, it's a business.
Everybody wants to stack their chips. But at the end of the day, it's a very small window of opportunity you have to be a professional basketball player. Even the 15 years that I enjoyed, it seemed like it was a blink of an eye. Compared to the rest of my, you know, been at a link nearly 20 years now. This is so important to guys that are competitive that want to be known as winners.
I think people that just want to get checked on the first and the 15th, they don't give a damn about that. Scott Williams is here. We get ready to wrap things up, Scott.
And thank you for taking the time. Controversy is always around. We just witnessed and saw the most viewed women's college basketball game ever between Iowa and LSU. We had a lot of conversations about sportsmanship and me first and who's important and not important and taunting. And even elements of I'm going or not going to the White House. We heard Andrew Reese say that, I don't know if I'm going. You've been, man. What is that experience like? I know there's a lot of politics involved with who's in the seat or not in the seat.
How would you summarize that experience and what advice would you give to someone who gets the chance of the opportunity? I relished it. I thought it was one of those perks of winning a championship being at the nation's capital with the most powerful individual on the planet. I thought that was a really cool thing.
I would never turn that opportunity down, so much history about our country there in that building. I don't know too much of the story about what Angel Reese has said. I know about the taunting with Kaitlin Clark.
That was the one storyline that I did get. I'd rather talk about that a little bit. I will say this, taunting has been a part of basketball since I was probably in the H-8, Hosie and the Heights Basketball Association in the sixth grade when I first learned the fundamentals. You want to try to gain an advantage on the court, whether it be with your play or getting inside someone's head, getting in their kitchen, trying to throw them off for their game. That's all part of it. Now, there's also a thing called winning with grace. When the game is decided, I think that's when you put that element of the game aside and you shut that down. I'm not trying to say what Angel Reese did was after the fact because I didn't watch the basketball game.
I could only see still photos for the most part. That fine line of when she had the game won versus trying to psych out an opponent, that's a tough one to walk. I know sometimes your adrenaline and your emotions get the better of you.
That's what I would have thought when I saw the still pictures, that she could have dialed it down a little bit. Yeah, that's fine in the third quarter. It's fine midway through the fourth quarter. They won by 15 points at some point in time while the clock was still ticking. That game had been decided.
I think Angel Reese needed to dial it back some. Scott Williams joining us. Last and final question, you talk about being competitive.
This was a game on Sunday. Just over the past couple of days, past couple of weeks, we have seen Charles Oakley go at Isaiah Thomas. And Isaiah Thomas respond to Charles Oakley just on the basis of Isaiah's relationship with your old teammate as well. Just Michael Jordan, this is now 30 years down the line. At what point does it stop being competitive and everybody has to go, wait a minute, like we're a little too old for this? Or is it ever a point?
Yeah, I don't know, man. I kind of find it a little bit funny watching these grown men with their gray hair and their pot bellies, you know, acting like they can still go out on the court and settle on the floor. So I kind of think a little bit funny, and I know Charles Oakley and Michael are phenomenally good friends and very close. I can see Charles trying to weigh in on that whole situation and say he's got MJ's back. MJ, for the most part, is relatively quiet.
I don't see much coming from his side or his camp outside of Oakley. So, you know, I think some of it has to do with maybe they just want to see their names on the paper, on the internet, you know, on the Sports Center. To me, it's childish, it's humorous.
I don't think anybody's getting hurt from it. I guess let them have at it. Those are for those Hall of Famers that, quite frankly, Stacey Keene and I talk about.
It's above our pay grade. I hear that. Well, Scott, you have a wealth of experience, and I appreciate you taking the time to hop on from your championships with the Bulls, the length of your career, your experience as a coach and a broadcaster. Tell everybody one more time where they can go ahead and get the book, Through the Fire. Through the Fire is a memoir of trauma and loss, basketball and triumph. It is available now on Amazon and Kindle, paperback and hardcover.
You can also get it at BarnesandNoble.com as well. Now, Jay, I want to say I really appreciate you letting me come on and share on your platform. I hope to try to do some good for domestic violence victims.
You know, 20 people every minute in the United States suffers from some form of domestic violence, and we want to try to help those folks. Hey, I appreciate the cause, and thank you for bringing a message. We'll be talking to each other coming on soon down the line as well. You can rest assured of that, Scott. Thank you.
I appreciate that, Jay. I just want to know, do you got my sons coming out of the West? I'm headed to the game tonight. Well, you heading to the one that they're already winning?
What's that? The sons? The sons nuggets tonight.
7 o'clock. Oh, man. Well, the Denver Nuggets, me and you can still go out there and play, so just go out and play.
Get involved. None of the stars are playing. The sun stars are playing. The nuggets aren't. I got to win in the West and go into the finals this year. Hey, look, if they stay healthy, I'm not mad at you.
I think that's a reality. Well, we'll have to come back and talk some playoff hoops. Help me on another time, will you?
Well, yeah, we'll come back on in a few weeks, Scott. I appreciate you. Thank you, my man. No doubt about it. Much love, much, much love to Scott Williams, three-time champion with the Bulls, 15-year NBA career.
Make sure you go ahead and get the memoir, Through the Fire, by Scott Williams, a memoir of trauma, loss, basketball, and triumph, available on Amazon and also hardcover. Ah, hammock. Check, Arnold Palmer.
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