If you’ve been a long time Raptors fan, then you know Walt “The Wizard” Williams.
He was a glorious, high-socked, 3-point shooting magician, and a first for the Toronto Raptors. While the 1996-1997 season was only the second season in the Raptors existence, Williams, who was signed for a paltry $247k minimum contract after Miami released him the year prior, was the first true 3-point marksman the Raptors had known. (My apologies to Tracy Murray.) Of the 982 field goals that Williams attempted, 437 of those were from beyond the arc. Compared to today’s game, he was basically Klay Thompson.
The big difference with Walt was that he wasn’t just a knock down 3-point shooter: the dude was a tank. At 6’8”, 230 pounds, he was a wrecking ball in the lane, only he had nimble, agile feet. He could finish with both hands, showcasing sound fundamentals with some nasty up-and-under layups.
After a dismal inaugural year which saw the Raptors go 21-61, it seemed the Raptors were on their way to not being the worst team in the league after finding a great complement to Damon Stoudamire and Marcus Camby. Stoudamire held down the point, Camby was a defensive force who also scored, and with Williams they had finally found a go-to scorer outside of Mighty Mouse. That’s a Big 3! The Wizard averaged 16.4 points per game, a ridiculously high 3.9 fouls per game (good for 7th most in the league) and finished with 175 3-pointers made (10th in the league). Finishing 30-52, and having the 9th overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Raptors seemed poised to build on what was a deemed a relatively successful season.
After drafting Tracy McGrady, hopes were high in Toronto until, sadly, the wheels fell right off. The Wizard would end up on a magic carpet ride from Toronto to the Pacific Northwest where he was dealt with Damon Stoudamire to Portland for Alvin Williams and a bunch of picks that didn’t amount to any more wins. The Raptors went 16-66 (their worst record ever) and it was time to start over again.
I, however, was not yet finished with Walt Williams.
I purchased NBA In The Zone ‘98 for the Nintendo 64 and proceeded to RAIN THREES WITH THE WIZARD! I routinely dropped 70+ points with Walt, nearly all of which came from beyond the arc. I tried, like every other Raptors fan, to forget the wreckage that had been left behind. I impulsively rained long bombs with the Wizard, trying to remember what it felt like before I had experienced my first true basketball heartache.
Walt Williams would have a career beyond the Raptors: drafted by the Kings, after his season with the Raptors he would bring his trademark high socks to the Blazers, to the Rockets, and to the Mavericks where he did some damage with Steve Nash in the 2003 Western Conference Finals. But for a short time, Walt Williams was essential to the Raptors’ glory days. To this day, Walt “The Wizards” Williams is one of the greatest Raptors that I have ever known.