THE Sydney Kings community are in mourning following news former star import forward Chris Williams has passed away at just 36 years of age.
Williams, who led the Kings to their maiden championship in 2003, encountered heart complications due to blood clots and passed on Wednesday night in Birmingham, Alabama.
The University of Virginia graduate only spent one season at Sydney, but he is considered one of the franchise’s favourite sons.
This was typified when Williams, a former NBL and NBL finals MVP, was selected as a starter in the Sydney Kings’ 25th anniversary team.
His inclusion alongside the Kings’ finest players is a testament to the forward’s impressive season in 2003.
Chris Williams during the Kings title charge in 2003. Picture: Rohan Kelly
On January 18 of that season, Williams became only one of four Sydney players to record a triple double in a game, going for 34 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in a big win over the West Sydney Razorbacks.
It was a memorable night for the native American – who was recruited by current Philadelphia 76ers mentor Brett Brown before he left the Kings to commence his NBA coaching career with San Antonio.
Kings managing director Jeff Van Groningen said the club deeply feels Williams’ loss and sends its collective prayers to his family and friends.
“Chris was an outstanding player at the Sydney Kings, and left a lasting legacy that helped create a winning culture,” Van Groningen said.
“More importantly, by all accounts and as recollected by those who were close to him, Chris was a great person off the court and will be sorely missed.”
Chris Williams (33) celebrates Sydney’s grand final win in 2003. Picture: Mark Evans
Kings head coach Andrew Gaze, who played against Williams in his playing days for the Melbourne Tigers, also expressed his condolences to Williams’ family and friends.
“Chris made an indelible contribution to the Sydney Kings – he was instrumental in beginning the championship era in Sydney and was a worthy MVP winner in the 2003 season,” Gaze said.
“I echo so many others in sending my thoughts to his family, following this tragic news.”
Tributes are flowing from many former teammates, including ex-Kings guard Shane Heal, as news of Williams’ passing sweeps through the NBL community.
“I’m so sad in hearing this terrible news,” Heal said.
“Chris was one of my favourite teammates of all time. He was an incredible player and I will always remember the title we shared and the great times we had off the court. Rest in peace brother.”