Nuggets of the 90s: Reggie Williams

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

The Nuggets, for Reggie Williams, were without question the safety net that saved his career.

Bernie Bickerstaff was the general manager who made it happen. He coveted Williams out of college while he was GM of the Seattle SuperSonics, but could not get him. But Bickerstaff made good on getting Williams when he was making personnel decisions for the Nuggets.

And Williams paid the Nuggets back as only he knew how – with the best years of his career both from a production and leadership standpoint.

The Nuggets never needed him more than in their famed playoff run of 1994. Williams, then 30, was the elder statesman. A Nuggets team that averaged under 25 years of age, was in need of wisdom. Williams had that. He also pulled 31 points and eight assists out of his hat in Game 3 of the first-round series against the Sonics, helping the Nuggets stave off elimination and gain the momentum needed to pull of what was then the biggest upset in NBA playoff history.

Williams’ path to the Nuggets was arduous. A flat-out star at Georgetown, and senior leader of a team Hoyas coach John Thompson dubbed “Reggie and the Miracles,” Williams was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the fourth overall pick in 1987. The Clippers basically had not scouted him at all and didn’t have real ideas on how they would use him. Bickerstaff, meanwhile, had done plenty of homework on Williams and wanted to draft him in Seattle with the fifth pick. But it was one pick too late.

Williams bounced around the NBA map in his first four years, going from the Clippers to the Cavaliers to the Spurs before, finally, San Antonio waived him on Christmas Eve. That’s right. Christmas Eve.

By then, however, Bickerstaff had moved on to the Nuggets. He didn’t miss his second chance to nab Williams, quickly picking up the phone to get him to town and secure his services.

And with the Nuggets, Williams soared. In six seasons with the Nuggets – five full – he’s 10th in points (5,934), seventh in steals (632) and 10th in field goals made (2,359). He averaged 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 419 games in Denver. His best season was the 1991-92 campaign in which he averaged 18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

In the end, for an East Coast native, who grew up in Baltimore and starred in the area at Georgetown, the Mile High City turned out to be the perfect fit.

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