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Once a Slicer, Always a Slicer: James Williams Class of 1997

As a former Slicer, James Williams is now serving his community well on the big stage as an NBA referee.

Originally, Williams didn’t plan on keeping players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in line. At both LaPorte High School and Purdue University, he graduated in the top of his class and originally planned on becoming a lawyer.

“I didn’t set out to be an NBA referee,” Williams said, “I wanted to be a lawyer. In fact I went to Purdue and studied Pre-Law there.

Williams plans for a future in law changed when he saw postings around campus seeking Intramural Basketball officials.

“I was a young 18 year old kid, and I figured it would be a great way to make some extra spending money,” Williams said.

Williams beginnings were rough. In his first day of officiating, there was a fight between two teams. Williams nearly quit after the first day because it seemed like too difficult of a job for only $6-$7 an hour. Luckily, Williams stuck with it, and it would pay off later on in his life. He wound up officiating intramural games all four years that he attended Purdue University.

His future in officiating changed for the better when he officiated a basketball tournament in West Lafayette for $20 per game. There he met a man named Chuck Jones. Jones was from Atlanta, Georgia, and was in West Lafayette attempting to get a job officiating in a Midwest College Basketball League. Jones told Williams that he could potentially become an NBA referee someday.

“I initially thought this was odd because my mind was set on law school; besides, how could one make a living refereeing basketball?” Williams said.

After attending an introductory camp in June 2001, Williams was hired to officiate some lower level college leagues such as the NAIA, JUCO, and Division III NCAA games. However, if he wanted to pursue a job in officiating, he would have to move to Atlanta. So in September 2001, he packed his bags in his 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix and headed for Georgia.

Williams worked in lower level college basketball leagues for a man named John Guthrie from 2001-2006. In 2006, he was also hired as an official for the Southeastern Conference (SEC), and he was hired by the NBA to work in the NBA Development League, now NBA G-League. Finally in 2010, his dreams came true when he was hired full-time as an NBA official.

“It took many years of hard work, dedication, successes and failures, but I finally achieved my goal and made it to the NBA,” Williams said, “There are roughly 65 NBA officials in the world, so getting there is not an easy thing to do.”

Despite now making it to the big stage as an NBA referee, Williams will never forget where he came from, right here in LaPorte, Indiana.

Williams attended LaPorte High School from 1993-1997. At LPHS, Williams learned from great teachers who made him determined to succeed. That determination and focus led him to where he is today.

“When I got to Purdue, I was well prepared for the college coursework because of the discipline that had been instilled in me at LPHS,” Williams said.

When it comes to being a Slicer, Williams believes it means that anything is achievable, as long as one believes in themselves.

“It’s about hard work, integrity, pride, and humility,” Williams said.

In terms of future goals, Williams plans to keep climbing the officiating ladder and hopes to be officiating the NBA Finals one day. He would also like to start a foundation that helps disadvantaged youth who may not have the same opportunities as others and he’d like to go back to Purdue and obtain his Law degree.

While Williams may have traded the orange and black gear for his black and white uniform, he’ll always be a treasured member of the Slicer family.

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