Posts Tagged ‘Pat Williams’

Hall of Fame Ceremonies Get Started With Memorable Reunion Dinner


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –
Two days of ceremonies at the Basketball Hall of Fame began Thursday night with the major awards short of enshrinement, with Grant Hill reinforcing that character matters, with Pat Williams flashing his signature humor, with Bill Schonely and Sam Smith telling a story a different way, and with former superstars dotting the crowd of several hundred people as part of the annual Reunion Dinner of previous inductees.

Hill, the Clippers forward, accepted the Mannie Jackson-Basketball’s Human Spirit Award in the professional division for community contributions and overcoming adversity. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was the recipient from the amateur ranks, and Richard Lapchick, president and CEO of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport as well as founder and director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics In Sport, in the “Grassroots” category.

Williams, the Magic’s senior vice president, received the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor from the Hall short of enshrinement. He talked through a career as general manager with four teams as few could, noting how while with the 76ers he told young Charles Barkley to get in shape, only to have Barkley respond, “Mr. Williams, round is a shape.” Or how a balanced meal to Barkley was a Big Mac in each hand.

Schonely, the former Trail Blazers play-by-play man and current community ambassador for the team, and Smith, the long-time Chicago Tribune writer and now at Bulls.com, stood at the podium and talked about themselves as winners of the Curt Gowdy Media Award for broadcast and print, respectively.

Wayne Embry, winner of the Chairman’s Cup, was unable to attend.

The audience at the Hall of Fame included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Bill WaltonMoses Malone, many others previously inducted, and most of the Class of 2012 that will be enshrined Friday night about a mile away.

No Shaq? No Dwight? Still Magic





ORLANDO — Pat Williams knows about beating the odds.

Three times he has been the official team representative when the Magic won the Draft Lottery.

At 71, he is smiling and relentlessly active and looking fit less than a year after being diagnosed with cancer.

So while the immediate outlook for the local NBA franchise would seem to run the gamut from bleak to dire, Williams says Orlando as a sports market and a city is in far better shape to withstand the loss of Dwight Howard than when Shaquille O’Neal bolted for L.A. back in 1996.

“It won’t be nearly as big a blow,” said Williams. “Not really. This town has grown so much since then. We had 55 million visitors last year. That’s never happened before in an American city. I think Orlando can stand on its own. It’s a major, major market now.

“So is there sense of dismissal, that we’re ‘a dried up pond,’ as Shaq called it? No. No.

“Of course, we were a good bit smaller then and maybe not as sophisticated. Of course, he never left here and has lived here ever since. So I guess you could say that Shaq hasn’t changed since then, but we have.

“The Shaq experience, it continues to irk people with no end in sight and that was 16 years ago. (more…)

Pat Williams had the Magic vision





ORLANDO – Before Dwight Howard took Orlando’s NBA team hostage … before Shaquille O’Neal stole and then, three years later, broke the hearts of Magic fans everywhere … before Howard, O’Neal and dozens of other terrific players delighted folks in what had been all football and Mouse ears in central Florida, there was Pat Williams.

Williams was the hustler, huckster, salesman and veteran NBA visionary who, about 25 years ago, got it into his head that pro basketball could thrive where it never had existed.

“It was a wild [vision],” Williams said Sunday morning at the annual NBA Legends brunch, where he was honored with the Hometown Hero award. “It was still kind of an overgrown citrus community. There was no downtown skyline. No Universal Studios. No big airport. … Our pitch was, ‘Don’t look at Orlando today. Look at it 10 years from today. Twenty years from today. Fifty years from today.’ “

The Magic entered the NBA that day in 1987, joining with expansion teams in Miami, Charlotte and Minnesota for the buy-in price of $32.5 million. Today, the Magic franchise is worth an estimated $385 million, according to a story last month in Forbes. The team is in its second season, in its second downtown area, with its second Hall of Fame-worthy big man making folks nervous on the day of its second NBA All-Star Game – none of which would have happened even once if not for Williams’ passion.

“Pat was such a pain in the neck trying to get an expansion franchise in Orlando that we finally granted it,” NBA commissioner David Stern teased.

The man to whom Orlando owes its NBA experience, at 71 still a senior vice president of the team, has had his plate full lately: Williams has been battling cancer – multiple myeloma to be exact, which affects blood plasma in his bone marrow. He went through traditional chemotherapy treatments and, when that didn’t achieve the results he needed, underwent a stem cell transplant. He is said to be holding the cancer at bay now, Magic president Alex Martins said after the brunch.

Williams long NBA career took him from public relations duties in Chicago to general manager responsibilities in Atlanta and Philadelphia before he took on the Orlando quest. He was the lucky Magic executive who saw his club land consecutive No. 1 lottery picks in 1992 and 1993, which he parlayed first into O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, then into a 1995 Finals appearance for the young team.

Williams’ busy private life is just as remarkable, filled with books he has authored, endless speaking engagements as a motivator and, with his wife Ruth, as a parent to 19 children, 14 of them adopted from four countries. At one point, 16 of them were teenager, when “I realized why some animals eat their young,” Williams quipped.

Others honored at the 13th annual Legends brunch, with Mt. Rushmore types such as Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the audience, were:

  • Hall of Fame scorer Dominique Wilkins as the Legend of the Year, for his basketball achievements but also for his work in fighting diabetes and as a Boys & Girls Club Alumni Hall of Famer.
  • NBA/ABA center Artis Gilmore, finally inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame last summer, received the Legends’ Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Nick Anderson, Orlando’s first-ever draft pick (No. 11, 1989), was presented with the Humanitarian Award for his work in the Magic’s community.
  • Hardaway received the Young Legends Award.
  • Magic Johnson also was recognized in a tribute to his All-Star MVP performance in the previous ASW held in Orlando. Diagnosed in November 1991 with the HIV virus, Johnson came out of his abrupt retirement to score 25 points in game and set up his participation later that year in the original Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Magic Fan Fighting For Dwight

PORTLAND – Ryan Totka is an entrepreneur, celebrity booking agent and perhaps most important for our purposes here at the hideout, an unabashed Orlando Magic fan.

So he owes us no apologies for advocating for his favorite team’s best player, that would be three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, to fight the growing trend and stick around when free agency hits after next season.

Totka has already debuted a website, StayDwight.com, T-shirts and a digital billboard in Orlando to kick off the campaign. Whether it works or not remains to be seen. Howard has a long time to go before he makes a decision on his future.

All that does is give Totka more time to intensify his efforts, which he clearly plans on doing, based on an email conversation we had with him as he awaited Friday night’s Game 3 of the Magic-Hawks playoff series.

We asked Totka if “The Decision,” last summer’s LeBron James free agent-palooza on ESPN, had anything to do with his campaign. We figured it was a logical conclusion considering the similarities in the dilemma facing both young stars, choosing between the city and franchise that sheltered you as you grew from a potential star into a full-blown megastar.

“I think LeBron’s decision stunned his hometown people the most, the one’s who see his face on a daily basis, driving to work seeing his face on signs and billboards around the city,” Totka said. “In Cleveland, he was the first person people talk about with their family and at work from the moment they wake up. Dwight is Orlando’s LeBron, the same way the city brands him around the town.”

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