Great timing to preview this division as the New Jersey
In Hoop Diary’s Jersey Countdown series we have already covered numbers 55, 54, and 53. Today we take a look at the number 52 and crown Hoop Diary’s all-time great to wear that number.
Who is the greatest #52 in ABA/NBA history?
With the third pick in the 1981 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets selected Charles “Buck” Williams from the University of Maryland. Coming off a poor 24-58 season, the Nets were looking for dramatic improvement and Williams was selected to be a catalyst. Teaming up with namesake and fellow recruit Ray Williams, New Jersey made some significant improvements throughout Buck’s rookie campaign. Averaging 15.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, a block, a steal and an assist per game, Buck Williams contributed mightily to New Jersey’s much improved 44-38 season. Although the Nets were eliminated in a 2-0 sweep by Washington, Williams had made his Rookie season count and got a taste of Playoff Basketball in the process.
Williams’ sophomore season saw him lift another notch in productivity as he assumed leadership of the New Jersey Nets. He posted slightly improved numbers of 17 points, 12.5 rebounds and again one steal, assist and block per game. Teaming up with Darryl Dawkins, Williams and the Nets again made the Playoffs but again lost in two games, this time to the New York Knicks.
Williams battled away with the Nets for another six seasons, making three All-Star Game appearances and competing in the post-season another three times. New Jersey then slumped to record two horribly unsuccessful seasons containing 19 and 26 wins respectively from 1987-1989. Sensing a need for change, the Nets traded Williams to the Portland Trail Blazers in the summer of 1989.
With a fresh start and a much more talented team, Williams achieved the most team success of his career in Portland. Williams joining forces with Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Kevin Duckworth saw Portland win 20 more games than the previous season. The Blazers also won their way through to the NBA Finals. Buck Williams averaged a very handy 14.3 points and 10.3 rebounds during the ’89-’90 season where Portland eventually fell to the Detroit Pistons 4-1 in the Finals.
Over the next two seasons Williams played a valuable role for a Blazers team that won a combined 120 regular season games, made one trip to the NBA Finals and came within two games of dethroning Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
The list of ABA/NBA #52’s is short when it comes to talent but that doesn’t detract from the stellar career that Williams enjoyed in the number. After 17 seasons, Buck Williams finished his NBA career with averages of 12.8 points, 10 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game while shooting .549 from the field.
Notable Mentions: Jamaal Wilkes, Chucky Brown, Greg Oden (joking but maybe one day?) and Brad Miller.