The Thrill of J-Will’s Fan Friday series continues as Kelly Meriano recounts his passion for collecting Jason Williams’ rookie cards. You, too, can be featured on the team’s website!

Growing up as a kid with a deep connection to all things sports meant I was also a passionate collector of sports cards. Casual trips with my mom to the department store would quickly turn into scrambles to the trading card aisle. While I was mainly focused on carefully picking the right pack in hopes of landing Mitch Richmond or Corliss Williamson, pulling cards of notable players from other NBA teams was almost as fun. Yet, the 1998 NBA Draft changed not only my approach to collecting, but also my understanding of what it meant to be a Kings fanatic.

It was easy for the name Jason Williams to be overshadowed in an offseason that resulted in acquiring Chris Webber and Vlade Divac — especially for a middle-schooler with no exposure to college hoops. Little did I know how big a spark it would be to see No. 55 run the court for the Kings. I fell in love with the energy, emotion, and, most notably, the spontaneity J-Will brought to the court with every new no-look pass or ridiculous pull-up three-pointer. Williams single-handedly reformed my definition of excitement with regards to the NBA. Win or lose, the Kings became an enthralling spectacle.

My card collecting trends soon began to mirror my new obsession. Every penny of my allowance was put toward Williams’ sports cards – a collection that would reach more than 15 rookie cards amounting to nearly $400. Other kids my age were saving up for the latest Nintendo games — not me! I couldn’t wait until each new series of cards came out so I could expand my collection. The thrill derived from collecting shifted from simply opening packs to purchasing individual cards.

Today, my J-Will rookie card assortment is collectively valued at less than $25, but the revitalization and energy he brought to basketball in Sacramento remains priceless.

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