By Cameron Lee
December 16, 2016
There haven’t been many high school basketball prospects more highly touted than Marvin Williams when he came out of Bremerton High School in Washington. He averaged a mind-boggling 28.7 points, 15.5 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 assists per game. As a McDonald’s and Parade All-American, he was the prized five-star recruit of Roy Williams and the Carolina Tar Heels in the 2004-05 season. His role as a sixth man on a deep UNC roster, ultimately led to a key go-ahead score in the NCAA National Championship game against Illinois. After winning the National Championship, much to the dismay of many Carolina fans, he decided to enter the 2005 NBA draft. Williams was picked #2 overall by the Atlanta Hawks behind Andrew Bogut and ahead of Carolina teammate, Raymond Felton, who was actually drafted #5 by the Charlotte Bobcats. After a few seasons in Atlanta, Williams was traded to the Utah Jazz for Devin Harris before landing in Buzz City in 2014.
We recently spent time at the arena with some of the players after practice. While Jay-Z’s The Blueprint album was blaring from the equipment office, Williams hung out with us outside the locker room in the Spectrum Center to talk about J. Cole, The Cheesecake Factory, Marvin Gaye, Charlotte protests, Dean Smith, and more. The latest in our Charlotte Hornets ‘Off Court CLTure’ series.
CLTure: I know you’re named after your dad, Marvin Gaye Williams, and your grandmother was a big fan. Did you have a lot of musical influences growing up?
Marvin Williams: (chuckles) Naaa, I was born in ‘86 so he (Marvin Gaye) was definitely a little before my time, but that’s the story of how I got my name.
CLTure: Did your family try to push any specific genres of music or instruments on you?
MW: I was in the band in the six grade.
CLTure: What did you play?
MW: I played the Baritone.
CLTure: How did that work out?
MW: I was only in there for like a semester. Ha ha, it was a good experience for me but I was never really like a musical instrument guy. I love music but I wasn’t as into the instruments.
CLTure: So as a kid what was your musical taste like?
MW: I listened to a ton of hip-hop. I grew up listening to Snoop, Ice Cube, Tupac, Dr. Dre, and stuff I guess kids shouldn’t be listening to. (laughs)
CLTure: So you were more of a West Coast rap guy?
MW: No question. It was everything, I mean E-40.. I’ve always loved hip-hop. I didn’t really branch out until I left Washington (state) really. The only people I would listen to outside of West Coast was, like, Outkast.
CLTure: Growing up in Washington was there a big rock n’ roll influence at all?
MW: Not much for me, the alternative movement out there was obviously huge, but not so much for me. I started listening to Linkin Park in High School. Then I remember Jay-Z and Linkin Park had a mash-up album that my mom bought me for Christmas in 2004 when I was in college.
CLTure: Were you a big Seattle Supersonics fan growing up?
MW: Oh yeah, of course. Home team everything. The Seahawks, Mariners, ya know, The Sounders now, the Sonics obviously when they were there. It was tough to see them leave. I know a lot of guys that want them to come back home, but hopefully we’ll get a team back there soon.
CLTure: Did you ever own a pair of Shawn Kemp’s?
MW: No, I never had a pair of his shoes. I did like them. I was a big Gary Payton guy. Gary Payton and Kevin Garnett were kinda my guys growing up.
CLTure: Having been drafted in Atlanta as a youngster then going to Utah, then Charlotte, what would you say the biggest differences between Atlanta and Charlotte are?
MW: I could see the comparisons. Two great cities. Two up-and-coming cities. A ton of people are moving to Atlanta and a lot of people are moving to Charlotte. Both very nice cities to grow up in, hangouts, lots to do, great restaurants, ton of events come through both cities, concerts, shows. So there are more things in common.
CLTure: So in Charlotte, have there been any go-to restaurants or food spots you’ve grown to love?
MW: I’m actually a huge chain eater. I go to The Cheesecake Factory, the P.F Chang’s, anything that’s nationwide, I’m pretty much there. (laughs)
CLTure: Why is that?
CLTure: Have you had a chance to catch any shows at the arena and in Charlotte recently?
MW: I took my daughter to Disney on Ice earlier this year which was cool. I saw Sam Smith, I saw Snoop and Wiz at PNC. Fall Out Boy…I actually got to see Beyonce perform, too. Those were probably the two best concerts I have been to.
CLTure: J. Cole came out with an album recently, are you a fan?
MW: Definitely, big fan. Huge fan.
CLTure: Has he ever come through before?
MW: He’s come to a game before definitely. Very humble guy, very intelligent guy. He’s pretty cool with a buddy of mine, so I actually ended up hanging out with him one night. Very cool dude, very down to earth, and very knowledgeable about things that are going on in the world.
CLTure: So it’s been a pretty wild year for Charlotte with HB2, the All-Star game, and recently the Keith Lamont Scott protests. Were you in town during the protests?
MW: We were here when all of that stuff was going on. It was a scary time. There’s no other way to describe it. When you see someone gunned down for whatever reason, it’s always sad to see someone lose their life. For a community as calm, fun, and safe as Charlotte to show that side, it was difficult. It’s definitely not a representation of this city.
CLTure: How do you think race relations are in Charlotte compared to Atlanta? Some people weren’t surprised with all of the hidden racial tension in this city.
MW: I would say it surprised me, it was definitely a side of Charlotte I have never seen. It’s a side of North Carolina I’ve never seen. I’ve been living in North Carolina for the past ten years or so. I know it exists everywhere, sometimes you get lost when you don’t see the tension too often. Like I said, it was a scary time, and luckily the right people got together to calm it down and hopefully something like this doesn’t happen again.
CLTure: If you weren’t playing basketball right now, what do you think you would be doing?
MW: If I had the opportunity to be around basketball and travel, that would be the perfect job for me. The NBA has some great programs like Basketball Without Borders that I’ve been involved with since I’ve been in the NBA teaching up-and-comers around the world that really enjoy the game. Hopefully I can continue to do things like that.
CLTure: Last is a UNC question, did you spend a lot of time with Dean Smith in Chapel Hill?
MW: Yeah, absolutely. Coach Smith would watch our practices when I was there. If he saw something, he would point it out. The one thing I remember the most about Coach Smith, is he was always concerned with academics, he always cared about the player that you were, but he cared more about the person you were, and I really appreciated that.
CLTure: I appreciate it, Marvin.
MW: No prob.
Ran into Charlotte Hornets President and COO Fred Whitfield and thanked him for participating in the “What can make Charlotte better” series.
Check out the remaining 2016-17 Charlotte Hornets schedule.