HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In basketball circles there are a handful of people whose faces are not recognizable to the casual fan but are instantly recognizable for insiders, players, scouts, coaches, executives and pundits alike.
Only a select few of those recognizable faces can travel the globe and retain that instant credibility in gyms from New York to New Delhi, a man whose voice carries and attracts all of the movers and shakers in attendance.
The Memphis Grizzlies, the NBA and the basketball world lost one of those men today when Kenny “Eggman” Williamson died after a long battle with cancer.
An assistant general manager with the Grizzlies for six seasons, Williamson, 65, spent three-plus decades immersed in the game from the grassroots level all the way up to the NBA. He is survived by his wife Nicole, their five children and four grandchildren.
A Harlem native and a staple at Rucker Park, Williamson spent 21 years as a college assistant, with stops at St. John’s, Louisville, Seton Hall and Columbia. He worked for the Charlotte Bobcats for three years before joining the Grizzlies and also worked for the Knicks for six years.
“Anyone who ever met ‘Eggman’ will never forget him,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement released by the team. “He had a huge personality and was extremely well-respected, both professionally and personally. Kenny was as true and committed a friend as one will ever have. He deeply cared for his friends and the youth of Memphis and of every community he touched. He was the greatest people person I have ever known. Every place I ever traveled with him, from Argentina to Turkey and throughout the U. S. he made an indelible impression and made countless friends. He was well-known is all basketball circles, both domestically and internationally, and his presence will be sorely missed.”
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins knew Williamson well, having dealt with him in previous stops before they worked together with the Grizzlies.
“I took a high school basketball team to Germany once and Kenny was there. Everybody knew him,” Hollins told Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal. “I interviewed for the Charlotte job and Kenny was working for the Bobcats at that time. And then when I come here and get the head coaching job, there’s Kenny sitting as the assistant general manager. We were very close.”
My encounters with Williamson began years ago, when I was just starting out as a reporter and would run across him in gyms around the country. One night you’d see him at an AAU game in Las Vegas. Weeks later you’d spot him at a pro-am game in Washington D.C. And a few years later I walked to my seat on press row at Staples Center and he was sitting in the scout’s seat next to me.
Anytime he sat next to or near me after that, I knew it was best to just close my laptop and open my ears for a few lessons on the game.
The rule, as I learned from others that new him much better and much longer than I did, was that you listened while he worked the room and made sure to heed his advice when it came to players, places and anything else he said because few people knew their way around the basketball world better than “Eggman.”
Rest in Peace Kenny Williamson!