Williams during Mavericks game in February 2017.
|No. 31 – Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Born|| July 26, 1984 |
|Listed height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Listed weight||209 lbs (95 kg)|
|High school|| The Colony |
|NBA Draft||2005 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3rd overall|
|Selected by the Utah Jazz|
|Playing career||2005-present (12 years)|
|2011-2015||New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets|
|Career highlights and awards|
In elementary school and middle school, Williams won two state wrestling championships. In 1993, as an eight-year-old, he won the 67 lb. weight class Texas State championship. Four years later in 1997, he won the twelve-year-old 116 lb. weight class championship. Williams attended The Colony High School in The Colony, Texas, and averaged 17 points, 9.4 assists, and 2 steals per game as a junior in 2001. That year he the Cougars to a 32–2 record and the Class 5A state semifinals against Bryan High. In 2002, as a senior, he averaged 17.6 points, 8.5 assists, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.6 steals per game. His team, the Cougars, went 29–2 that season, losing the 5A Texas State semifinals. Williams was a teammate of Bracey Wright who went on to play for Big Ten rival Indiana University.
Williams was recruited to play college basketball at the University of Illinois for the 2002–03 NCAA season by Bill Self. In his freshman year, he started 30 of 32 games and ranked third in the Big Ten Conference in assists with 4.53 per game.
Bruce Weber assumed the head coach position for the Illini in April 2003 and helped develop Williams throughout his remaining collegiate career. As a sophomore, Williams improved his scoring average from 6.3 to 14.0 points per game and improved his assists per game from the prior year to 6.17. Williams was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media.
In 2005, as a junior starting point guard, Williams led the Fighting Illini to the NCAA championship game where they lost to the University of North Carolina. That season saw the Illini go undefeated until the final game of the regular season, when they lost to Ohio State by one point. Illinois's road to the Final Four was marked by a comeback win over the Arizona Wildcats, where the Illini, led by Williams, came back from fifteen points down in the final minutes to win the game. Williams made the game-tying three-point shot with just 38.5 seconds left in regulation. He then hit the go-ahead three-pointer in overtime, and the Illini never looked back in that game.
Williams received many awards after the 2004–05 season. Those honors include being named a consensus Second Team All American, as well as being named First Team All-Big Ten, Big Ten All-Tournament Team, and All-Final Four team. Williams was also a finalist for the Wooden Award and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Chicago Regional in the NCAA Tournament. Williams was named First-Team All-Big Ten as a sophomore in 2004 and as a junior in 2005, the year in which Williams, called by coach Bruce Weber "the MVP of the team", led the Illini to the Final Four. The team included four other future NBA players, including Dee Brown, Roger Powell, James Augustine, and Luther Head.
Williams declared for the NBA Draft after the 2005 season, forgoing his final year of collegiate eligibility.
Following the season, Williams declared for the 2005 NBA Draft. The Utah Jazz selected Williams with the third overall selection, after Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams. He started the season coming off the bench, eventually moved into the role of starting point guard, and was later sent back to the bench. Williams finished his rookie season averaging 10.8 points and 4.5 assists per game, in 80 games played. Williams was rewarded by being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, as well as being the only other rookie besides Chris Paul to receive a first-place vote in the 2005–06 NBA Rookie of the Year voting (Williams received one first-place vote, from Jazz color commentator Ron Boone). Williams and Chris Paul have shared a friendly rivalry that began after the 2005 NBA Draft, where Williams and Paul were the third and fourth selections overall. Whether Williams or Paul is the superior point guard is the subject of frequent debate among sports writers and fans.
Williams began the 2006–07 season as the starting point guard for the Jazz. The Jazz started the season with a 12–1 record. This record was the best in team history and in the league. During these first 13 games of the season Williams played remarkably well, delivering five double-doubles. Two of these double-doubles were back-to-back performances of 26/14 and 27/15 (points/assists). Both of these assists totals bested his previous career high. In the second of those two games, he also had a career high in steals, with five. On January 17, 2007, in a game against the Detroit Pistons, he recorded a career high 31 points. A few days later, on January 24, he recorded a career high 21 assists in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. In his second season, his numbers improved in almost all categories, increasing to 16.2 points and 9.3 assists per game (second only to Steve Nash in the NBA). The Jazz improved to post a 51–31 record, winning the Northwest Division title.