White Chocolate in Winter

Jason Williams turned 40 today. A birthday breakfast at Shoney’s was scuttled when he didn’t wake up until a few minutes after 1:00pm. He spent most of the afternoon lounging around the house with friends and spent the early evening watching his son play basketball, before leaving to play a rec league game.

He is 6’1″ and remarkably skinny for a middle aged man with an affinity for McDonalds (unfortunately, I am not so lucky). He is a central Florida transplant from West Virginia and carries with him a regional twang. He is a married father of three children, and enjoys following their exploits on the basketball court and softball field. He keeps a small circle of friends and enjoys a round of golf.

White Chocolate played 13 years in the league and won an NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006. He is impulsive, heavily tattooed and plays the game with a unique flair that simultaneously obliterates and defines racial perceptions in the game of basketball. His mere presence around a basketball court anywhere in the country creates a palpable buzz. He does not use social media, but has probably taken hundreds of thousands of pictures with total strangers. Every couple of months he barnstorms through China or other parts of Asia playing exhibition games to adoring crowds.

There is no blueprint for skinny white kids from remote West Virginia towns to become basketball icons. There is isolation, boredom, imagination and, in the soul of this man, unrelenting desire. Not for stardom or money, but to master a ball in his hand, making it go where he wants when he wants…off the floor, between his legs, behind his back,off his elbow, in the basket, to a teammate from an angle that was crafted through hours of isolation, boredom and imagination.

It is a degree of mastery that we can enjoy, but not replicate. It’s why we will not forget White Chocolate, and why I am fortunate to have met Jason Williams.

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