Jason Williams reflects on the enduring Miami Heat championship culture

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Jason Williams thrilled NBA fans with his dazzling passes but the highlight of his career was winning a championship playing in Miami’s winning culture.

Jason Williams, aka White Chocolate, was one of the most memorable players of his era. Basketball fans remember Williams bursting onto the scene as a lottery pick with Sacramento in 1999 throwing some of the most creative, Harlem-Globetrotter-level passes the game has ever seen.

The Kings were entertaining in Williams’ three seasons in Sacramento but never got past the second round of the playoffs before he was dealt to Vancouver (Memphis) for Mike Bibby in a four-man deal. The Grizzlies won 50 and 45 games with Williams but never won a playoff series with Jerry West as General Manager and Hubie Brown coaching the team.

“Hubie Brown was one of the top three maybe top two coaches I ever played for,” Williams told FanSided. “When he took the job and we had our first team meeting he had three rules as an NBA team.  His three rules were know when to shoot, know when to pass and be on time. If those three things were done everything was smooth with Hubie Brown. Hubie Brown is the greatest, I love Hubie Brown to this day.”

The highlight of William’s NBA career came in his seventh season in the league when he won a championship alongside Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal in Miami. Williams was acquired along with Antione Walker and James Posey in one of the more elaborate deals in NBA history, with five teams and 13 players involved.

Everything changed for Jason Williams when he joined the Miami Heat

Williams ended up being the third-leading scorer on the Heat (12.3 points per game) while shooting a career-best 37 percent from 3 and 44 from the field.

“That championship meant everything to me,” Williams said. “People said that I would never get one, opinions are like buttholes [everyone has one]. That’s something that can never be taken away from me.”

The championship culture in Miami started to develop when Pat Riley arrived as head coach in 1995. The late 90’s Heat got close but ran into Michael Jordan a couple of times including the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals.

Riley kicked himself upstairs to team president in 2003 hiring Stan Van Gundy to coach the team. Riley’s first big move was trading for Shaquille O’Neal who happened to be neighbors in Orlando with Williams.

“He (O’Neal) came over and asked if I would want to play with him in MIami and I said ‘for sure’ there would be no doubt about it,” Williams said. “He pulled his cell phone out and called Pat Riley right away and gave me the phone and I’m like uhhh sure I would to come and play in Miami are you kidding me?! I didn’t really think it was going to happen but once he handed the phone to me and Pat Riley was on the other end I pretty much knew it was a done deal.”

Williams thought he was going to be playing for Stan Van Gundy, but Van Gundy abruptly resigned in early December bringing Pat Riley down to the bench early in the season. Riley was not always popular with his players because of his demanding no-nonsense ways, but there was no doubt who was in charge and what the consequences would be if you did not follow the Heat culture rules.

“The greatest thing about the Heat organization is you don’t have to get to that dude (Pat Riley) because everybody underneath him you have to respect them too,” Williams said. “If there is something that happens that you need to go to Pat’s office it is too late. With that organization, their culture once you step-in, once you sign that contract for the heat organization you know their culture so you are not going to get out of line. That organization is one of the best if not the best that I have ever been a part of.”

Williams, who had been kicked off his Florida college team, traded from Sacramento leaving under less than perfect terms, became a true professional in Memphis and then topped it off with a title in Miami. His journey is relevant to the current Heat with Jimmy Butler still searching for his first championship and bumping up against the Heat culture. Udonis Haslem threatened to kick Butler’s a**. Butler might not have faced the same pushback in Chicago and or Philadelphia.

Miami is different that way. Williams was a key part of it when the Heat raised their first banner, a winning culture that continues to this day.

Jason Williams has partnered with the POWERADE program helping launch to help college athletes re-set their clock called “Pause is Power.”

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