Thursday, March 22, 2018

"3,249 Pieces of Silk"

Luke 15.24 ESV

“‘For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Every time he took a shot he left a piece of himself on the court. When he made a shot, the crowd erupted in celebration and there he left even more of himself. At fifty-one, Freeman Williams, known as “Silk” for the smoothness of his form, was allegedly “homeless, addicted to crack, and living in an alley four blocks from his old high school.” At least that’s what a former neighbor told Oregonian sports reporter and radio talk host, John Canzano[1] ten years ago. You can find his heart-wrenching story at this link: “Williams, a player lost and found”
“He shot baskets in his old gymnasium at Manual Arts. His back bothers him. His legs are stiff, and his knees don’t bend easily. But Williams shot, and the children stopped talking to watch, and every once in a while, he looked so beautiful with the ball you came to understand why the fans here used to call him ‘Silk.’
“A young teen at the school asked, ‘How many points did you score in college?’ ‘3,249,’ Williams said.
“He knows it like a phone number. The number feels like an old friend to him. So much so that Williams said he made 3-2-4-9 the voicemail code on the cell phone he’s using. Another teen calls out, ‘You say you played in the NBA, so bang out one,’ and laughs at Williams, daring him to dunk. “‘I’m old now,’ he said. ‘You ain’t going to be laughing when you're my age.’”
I had just completed another reading of the prodigal son recorded in the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel. I had examined the passage dozens of times through the years but that day was different. I heard my wife say, “Oh, that was such a sad story about a former NBA player who lost all his money and got hooked on drugs.” It was John Conzano’s piece on Freeman Williams. Suddenly, the words of Christ had even more meaning:

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost,
and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

In the case of “Silk” there may be no reason to celebrate yet. As John Canzano wrote, “Finding the truth about Freeman Williams is a complex task.”
  • 1977 and 1978 NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I individual scoring champion
  • All-time scoring leader at Portland State University
  • Number 2 (behind Pete Maravich) in Division I history for career scoring
  • 1978 first round draft pick (8th overall) by the Boston Celtics
  • Played 6 years in the NBA for the San Diego Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz, and Washington Bullets
  • Only player in NBA league history to lead his team in scoring coming off the bench
  • Top 10 players for three point field goals in three consecutive professional seasons (1980-82)
  • Earned $20,000 for a small part portrayal of fictional character Duck Johnson in the 1992 film “White Men Can’t Jump”
  • Has not held a regular job since stocking shelves at Safeway in McMinnville after retiring from the NBA in 1986
During the interview, Canzano and Williams drove past the Los Angeles Forum. Freeman remarked how he used to love to play against the Lakers in his old neighborhood filling sections of the Forum with admiring friends, family, and fans. “They hold church services there now on Sundays,” he told John.[2]

I hope “Silk” finds his way back to the Forum again some Sunday morning and gets another shot at life, relinquishing every remaining piece of himself to Him who waits with open arms. May Freeman Williams, one of basketball’s greatest, be “lost and found” again giving both his fans and the angels in heaven cause to “celebrate” now and forever.

[1] “Williams, a player lost and found,” John Canzano, The Oregonian, March 19, 2008.

[2] Faithful Central Bible Church led by Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer gathers for worship at the Forum each Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Find out more at

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