‘Hot Rod’ Williams fighting cancer

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.

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 7: John Hot Rod Williams #18 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots a foul shot against the Sacramento Kings during a game played on March 7, 1989 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1989 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

John “Hot Rod” Williams.

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:




  1. Rona says:

    I am heartsick at the loss of this great athlete and wonderful person. My deepest sympathy to all of Hot Rod’s family.

  2. Miles Santiago says:

    I remember “Hot-Rod” Williams when he became the highest paid player…I also had his basketball card…hoping for the best…

  3. Joyce petty says:

    Our prayers are with John hot rod Williams. May God’s mercy and blessings be with him and his family

  4. Darlisha D Westley says:

    U and my family are in my prayers.

  5. anthony watson says:

    I send my prayers out to hot rod Williams never mate him I played college basketball during the same period and remember the tough life story and his misfortune with the point shaving at Tulane. May your fright be strong and your conquer cancer.

  6. My prayers go out to John Hod Rod Williams and his family. I know all too well about loved ones battling cancer. STAY STRONG!

  7. Michel says:

    that is terribly sad. how many players /coaches have been hit by this decease this year? my prayers go out to John and his family, I remember how hard he played.