1978-1979 Stats: 74 GP, 33.1 MPG, 22.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 46.5 FG%, 85.4 FT%
1978-1979 Advanced: 52.7 TS%, 46.5 eFG%, 16.4 PER, 103 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 5.1 WS
All-Star Team? No
Team: 37-45, lost in first round to Philadelphia 76ers (2-0)
John Williamson deserves better than his afterthought status.
I chose Williamson’s 1978-1979 year, because that’s when Williamson was at his best for a full season with the Nets. But it’d be a huge mistake to leave out Williamson’s most important impact on the team’s history, which happened a few years before.
In Game 6 of the ABA Finals, the last game in ABA history, the Nets fell down early to the Denver Nuggets, led by future Hall of Famers Dan Issel and David Thompson. But Williamson poured in 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead a major comeback, sealing the victory for the Nets and their last championship in any association.
On a team with Julius Erving, Williamson had the biggest impact in arguably the franchise’s biggest game ever.
In Terry Pluto’s book Loose Balls, covering the ABA, a few folks that had the chance to watch Williamson play shared their thoughts on him:
Williamson was an ass-kicker as a guard, which is something you seldom see. His game was to be physical, to pound you. – Bob Costas
You couldn’t take the ball away from Williamson. He would dribble the ball with one hand and have the other arm out to protect, literally stiff-arming anybody who tried to take it from him. He would just throw that arm out and — whack! — nail the guy guarding him. And the officials let it go because John had established that that was how he played. Soon word got around and everybody in the league just gave John a lot of room. – John Sterling
Williamson’s nickname was Super John and he led the team in personality. He was free-spirited, always upbeat and just a fun guy to be around, because he liked to play so much. That was before he got fat. He was about 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds of muscle. He was more of a warrior than a player, a guy who went out there and physically punished you. – Steve Albert
Despite the talent disparity between the ABA and NBA, Williamson dropped more points per game with the Nets in the NBA, partially due to Julius Erving leaving the Nets but also a testament to his ability to adjust. Williamson was a bull of a scorer, never athletic like Erving but a talented jump shooter and attacker. He’s worth more than the memory he’s given in Nets lore. A vote for him is a vote for history.