Marvin Williams is in an enviable situation.
The 15-year pro and No. 2 overall selection in the 2005 draft is one of two lottery picks from that year that are still playing in the NBA, along with Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul. His career earnings are north of $110 million and he’s still playing basketball “because I still enjoy it;” he’s doesn’t need to draw an NBA paycheck to be financially sound.
But how much time does he have left in the league?
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve certainly thought about being done,” Williams, the Charlotte Hornets’ power forward, told the Observer on Tuesday.
“I feel like that’s where I am right now: I could do it or I could not.”
His body hasn’t broken down over 1,050 NBA games, and until this season, he was consistently a starter. While his contract with the Hornets ($15 million salary this season) expires in July, he’ll have options: Scouts from other teams frequently ask me about him as a mentor/locker room presence/bench guy next season.
An offer could lure him back for the 2020-21 season, but Williams, 33, has given abundant thought to what’s beyond playing. This trip to Paris for Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks factors into that: Williams would like a second career in basketball, but has no interest in coaching. He’s already done groundwork toward a role in international basketball, doing a summer internship with the NBA office a couple of years ago.
“I was in New York, but focused on the international basketball operations part of it,” Williams said. “I like the Junior NBA (program) where you are basically a camp counselor all around the world. Basketball Without Borders (the league’s global summer outreach), I’ve done a couple of those: I went to Africa and I went to Indonesia.
“Any opportunity I get to travel and work with kids? That’s what I would love to do.”
Tar Heels tie
Williams’ curiosity about living abroad grew from a North Carolina tie: His best friend is another former Tar Heel, Deon Thompson, who played in Chapel Hill from 2006 through 2010. A 6-foot-9 power forward, Thompson’s chance to play professionally was outside the NBA, and he’s strung together nine seasons, all in Europe, including this season in Malaga, Spain.
Thompson has become Williams’ global tour guide.
“He’s my best friend — both my daughters’ god parent,” Williams described. “No matter where he is, we come there in the summer. He’s a big reason we travel so much.”
Thompson isn’t the only reason for Williams’ international interest. When he entered the NBA, there were NBA stars from outside the United States, such as Dirk Nowitzki from Germany and Yao Ming from China. Now there is international talent all over the league: Three players on the Hornets roster — Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez — played in Europe. The reigning MVP is the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (from Greece), and Dallas Maverick Luka Doncic (Slovenia) is in contention for MVP this season,
Williams believes a job nurturing that global growth would be a great second act.
“So many players from so many different countries every single year now,” Williams said of the inflow. “Look at what the international factor was 10 years ago, compared to now. Think of what it will be 10 years from now.”
Body of work
If this becomes Williams’ last season, summarize his career this way: He justified being a No. 2 overall pick and he’s proven to be one of the better free-agent signings in Hornets history.
He wasn’t as dynamic as Paul and Deron Williams, point guards chosen after him in 2005, but his longevity and ability to adapt made for a fine body of work. As the game evolved, he switched from small forward to power forward. Along the way he went from a non-3 point shooter to a guy with a 36-percent career average beyond the arc with more than 2,800 attempts.
When the Hornets first signed him in the summer of 2014, it didn’t seem like a big thing. But he started 75 or more games in four consecutive seasons, becoming a key team defender and 3-point threat. If the Hornets overpaid to re-sign him in 2016 ($54 million over four years), that was circumstantial, coming off a 48-victory season and the salary cap spiking league-wide.
Throughout his time in Charlotte, he’s been a consummate teammate. He never griped about not starting this season and he’s not upset at playing little lately. He understands the merits of playing young guys in this rebuild and supports it.
That’s a pro. That’s Marvin. If he can pass on that wisdom to young players globally, that sounds like a calling.