He grew up dirt poor in Louisiana and then battled accusations of point-shaving while in college to become a valuable rotation player during his 13-year playing career.
But now, that’s well in the past for John “Hot Rod” Williams as he battles cancer. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto, who covered much of Williams’ career, the ex-center is on life support in Baton Rouge.
Williams, 53, was an important player for Lenny Wilkens and a valuable teammate for Mark Price, Larry Nance and Brad Daugherty. Those teams were among the NBA’s best for a good half-dozen years, and their only misfortune was playing during the era of Michael Jordan. The Cavs never beat Jordan in a playoff series — everyone remembers The Shot over Craig Ehlo — but routinely won 40-50 games and made the playoffs.
Williams had primarily a sixth-man role and the Cavs boasted an imposing front line with Williams, Daugherty and Nance. Williams finished his career in Phoenix, then moved back home in Sorrento, La., and became a community fixture.
He built a large home in town and stocked it with toys for his children, once explaining, “I never had any toys as a kid.” Williams was raised by a woman who found him on a doorstep crying as a toddler; he later built a home for Barbara Colar next door to his own. He was cleared of point-shaving charges at Tulane and soon fund NBA riches, partly due to a free agent contract extended to him by the Miami Heat, which made him the highest-paid player on the Cavs when Cleveland matched it. He averaged 13 points and seven rebounds with the Cavs.
In retirement, Williams formed a construction company and coached his children and their friends in Little League.
His agent, Mark Bartlestein, told Pluto: “It’s a very serious situation.”
Some of his former teammates are extending their support: