- Fly Williams
James "Fly" Williams (Born
February 18, 1953) is a retired American professional basketballplayer.
Born in Brownsville,
Brooklyn, New YorkCity, he attended Madison High School, where initially was interested in playing baseball. He was a pitcher, but was advised that he had become too tall to remain competitive that sport. His initial introduction to basketball did not go well, but he eventually made the adjustment to the new game. His ability to play basketball came from his frequent participation in street basketball games. He played with some of New York’s finest street players such as World B. Freeand Earl "the Goat" Manigault. When the games eventually ended, he would go out in search of more opportunities to play basketball. Williams dominated the sport of basketball at Madison High School in the early 1970s. By his freshman year, he was 6’ 5”, with outstanding moves, a fantastic shot, a terrific knowledge of the back board action, and could play the crowds.
Williams got the nickname “Fly” from his flamboyant wardrobe and playing style.However, due to his poor attendance at Madison High, Williams completed high school at a prep school,
Glen Springs Academy, in Lakemont, New York. The book "Heaven is a Playground," discusses, among other things, the education of “Fly” Williams. After Williams completed high school, he was recruited by an assistant basketball coach, Leonard Hamilton, to attend Austin Peay State Universityin Clarksville, Tennessee.
Williams arrived on campus in 1972. He was greeted by a reception which included a sky-writing demonstration which spelled out his name. His freshman year, playing as a guard, his scoring record was especially noteworthy. Williams averaged 29.4 points per game in 1973, fifth best in the nation. The Austin Peay State University basketball team, the Governors, won a bid to the
National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA) tournament. Williams was true to form; scoring 26 points in a first-round win over Jacksonville University. In the second round of the tournament, Williams managed another 26 points, but the Austin Peay Governors lost to University of Kentucky, coached by Joe B. Hall, in overtime. His popularity soared. One fan described William’s days at Austin Peay on the website http://www.angelfire.com/tn/rog/fly.html as follows: “Fans use to line up five hours before game time to get a seat in "The Little Red Barn" (Austin Peay’s red-brick gymnasium) to see the unique style of basketball that was "Fly". Williams was an original; once he didn't like the coaches strategy, so he walked off the court and sat in the stands with the fans. Other times he did things like dribble off the court during the game to stop at a water fountain. But another time when each Austin Peay player was given a fruitcake, where Austin Peay was playing in the "Fruitcake Classic", Fly collected all the players fruitcakes and delivered them to a poor section of town.”
Williams scored 51 points twice in his freshman year. In his sophomore season, Williams averaged 27.5 points per game, earning a third-place scoring record in the NCAA. Once again the Governors basketball team won the bid for the NCAA tournament. Once again Williams scored 26 points, but Austin Peay was crushed by Notre Dame, 108-66, in the first round. The record established by Williams in his two years at Austin Peay, was impressive. Williams scored 1,541 points with a 28.5 point per game average; he left college due to hardship and pursued a professional career. Austin Peay responded to William’s two year record, in 1975, by building the
Dunn Center, a larger gymnasium, to accommodate the increase in attendance at basketball games. Denver drafted Williams in the first round of the 1974 American Basketball Association (ABA) draft. The league was new, and following the draft, there were several offers to buy the player contract on Williams. Eventually, he was sold to the Spirits of St. Louisbasketball team. A young sports broadcaster named Bob Costasannounced their games. He would later contribute to a book, "," a sports book originally published in 1990, by Simon and Schuster, and written by sportswriter Terry Pluto. The 1974-1975 basketball season was a disappointment to Williams and his team. He managed to score only 9.4 points per game for the Spirits. His scoring was erratic and he was known for his showmanship rather than his scoring proficiency. The National Basketball Association(NBA) orchestrated a merger with ABA teams and there was some interest in retaining Williams, but it did not result in a job for him. The Spirits basketball team was not included in the restructured NBA.
Next in his schedule was the
Continental Basketball Association(CBA), he played in the Eastern League, but failed to receive any attractive offers coming from NBA teams. Next, Williams played for a basketball team in Israel, but he never attracted the serious attention of recruiters in the NBA. Williams admits that his temper was probably an underlying issue which predicated his lack of serious offers.
Williams is now retired and works with disadvantaged youth.
Fly's career was eventually ended due to a robbery attempt. A bullet wound left him with decreased lung capacity, and scar on his back. James “Fly” Williams is listed as the number three athlete on the “50 Greatest Streetballers of All Time” by Street Basketball Association (SBA).
While playing at Austin Peay, the fans constructed a clever on-court chant that went: "Fly is open, let's go Peay!"
A book on the life of "Fly" is currently being written by Knoxville, TN based author Dave Link. It is expected to publish in Winter, 2009.
*“Fly on the Rebound: An update on a basketball legend,” Austin Peay State University Alumni Magazine http://www.apsu.edu/magazine/98Fall/fly.htm
*Fly Williams’s professional basketball statistics, http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/w/willifl01.html
*New York Times article about Fly Williams’ shooting incident, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE5DE173EF932A15751C0A961948260
*50 Greatest Streetballers of All Time, list published by the street basketball association: http://www.streetbasketballassociation.net/content/About-SBA/50_Greatest.html
*”Heaven is a Playground” book by Rick Telander
1973 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament
1974 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament
* [http://www.thefly35.com/ The Official Website of James "Fly" Williams]
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