Next up on our fan favourite week is Jerome Williams, who became one of the earliest fan favourites in Toronto Raptors history.
Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams was a Toronto Raptors fan favourite before he even set foot on the court, something not many players can attest to. Williams enthusiasm was evident from the moment he was traded from the Detroit Pistons to the Raptors back in 2001.
Upon hearing the news that Williams had been traded to the Raptors, along with Eric Montross, for Tyrone Corbin, Corliss Williamson, Kornel David, and a future first-round pick, Williams made the conscious decision to immediately drive from Detroit to Toronto. The man was so excited about the news.
Almost immediately, Williams had endeared himself to a Toronto Raptors faithful that hadn’t had much to cheer about in their younger years but was coming into the teams strongest stretch in franchise history. Following on from a 45-win season in the 1999-00 NBA season, the Raptors went one better – or technically two better – in the 2000-01 season, securing 47 wins and their second playoff berth in as many years.
A power forward in entirely the correct generation of play, Williams was all grit-and-grind. His performances on the court – and his tendency to leave it all on the line – are what made him a fan favourite in Toronto from the moment he stepped onto the hardwood.
His star extended beyond the court though, and in 2003 Williams was the star (not the star) of the Disney movie “Full-Court Miracle”, based on the true story of former Virginia Cavaliers basketball star, Lamont Carr.
On the court, though, it was impossible not to love Williams. Who wouldn’t love a player willing to do whatever it takes to win a game?
His grit is comparable to that of Kyle Lowry, just in a 6-foot-9 frame. Williams was a solid defender and the fact he made such an impression in Toronto in such a short space of time really emphasizes the point at hand. Hard work goes a long way to making an impression, which is why Williams went down so well among the Raptors faithful.
You don’t get the nickname “Junkyard Dog” by idly watching the game pass you by, that’s for sure. His best season in the NBA came as a Toronto Raptors player, too. Williams averaged 9.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.6 steals per game in the 2002-03 NBA season – career-highs in every department besides rebounds.
The Raptors were looking for heroes in their younger years, and Williams was the perfect blend of everything that the team wanted. The fact he was so eager to be a part of the team in the first place was something that wasn’t exactly commonplace. Fans had and would continue to watch star players force moves away from the team.
Williams wasn’t a superstar, but every team needs a lynchpin and that’s exactly what he was.
One of the earliest fan favourites in Toronto Raptors history, Williams will go down as one of the heroes of early Raptors history. He’ll certainly get a warm reception every time he comes back.