How Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams earnt his name
How does a basketballer from The Bronx, who landed in Townsville then made a life in Melbourne, earn the nickname Homicide?
Corey "Homicide" Williams was an Alabama State University graduate in his mid-20s when he began tearing up street basketball in New York, armed with a plan.
"I figured that if I could dominate street basketball, I could get a shot to the NBA,'' the 43-year-old says.
"I had no help or experience so I really had to heat the streets up, bust everyone on their ass, I literally had to kill the competition, hence the nickname. They said I committed basketball homicide on my opponents. I was matching up against NBA players and finishing games with 30, 40, sometimes 50 points.
"After a couple of years, I hit a run and was literally one of the best street ballers in the world and the best in New York City.
"This one game I played against J.R smith, Dahntay Jones and Kenny Satterfield, all NBA guards and two NBA champions, and I scored 46 points. That game was on NBA TV and it went viral, well as much as you could be viral in 2005.
"I got a shot at the Toronto Raptors in 2007, a shot to the NBA from street basketball and things changed for me."
Williams went to pre-season camps, played Summer League and was on the cusp of the NBA without ever playing in the world's best league.
At 29, he told his agent Bill Neff it was time for a change.
"I said I was too old to chase the NBA. My agent said New Yorkers do well in Australia because of the style of play and you'll do well in that country,'' he recalls.
"Perth Wildcats reached out, they'd wanted me for a few years but I was chasing the NBA. I verbally agreed to sign with them but they had to cut an import first, then the next day Trevor Gleeson at Townsville calls my agent and says 'we want him now.' It was the same money, so I went directly to Townsville.
"Going to Townsville was the best decision ever, without me knowing."
Arriving Down Under, Williams thought all of Australia must be like hot and humid Far North Queensland.
"My teammates would say 'wait until we go to Melbourne and Sydney and Perth'. I got off the plane in those cities and was like 'ohhh, so this is Australia.' "
A 191cm point guard, Williams made an immediate impact for the Townsville Crocs and in the league, winning the 2010 NBL Most Valuable Player award.
"I was the kind of player that you either love or hate but you want to watch him lose or cheer him on and hope that he wins. I was able to get that fan base here and it really was a match made in heaven,'' he says.
Next, Williams went to Greece to play professionally before returning to Australia in the 2010-11 season to join the Melbourne Tigers.
A few years on, while playing in Lebanon, he returned to Melbourne in 2015 on holiday and again the NBL changed the course of his life.
"I was visiting a friend at the Docklands and we were posting all over social media and the NBL got wind of me being here and I got an opportunity to commentate games while I was here,'' he says.
"It was an incredible opportunity because these things don't happen like that. I decided I was going to stay here, maximise the opportunity because it fell in my lap. I said to myself 'you talk all the time, you love the game, you had success here, Aussies are beautiful people and it's a beautiful place'."
A three-week stint turned into four and a half months commentating the league on television. Williams' swagger, colourful insights and big opinions had tongues wagging.
"Sometimes my opinion is tough or straight to the point, some people say I'm polarising or a hater. The point is to engage and get people talking about basketball. I'm not paid to be right or wrong, I'm paid to get you talking,'' he says.
"The biggest thing I wanted to do in year one was get people talking about the league.
"I was a player here so I knew the lay of the land, that was one of the biggest advantages I had."
Today, Melbourne is very much home for the retired journeyman who played for 24 teams during his career. He's part of the NBL's broadcast team and also appears on various basketball platforms and radio.
"It's been a hell of a ride, a journey - my life, my career and how I've transitioned into this space,'' he says.
"The biggest asset I have is my energy and it's easy for me to do something like this because I believe in it."
The inaugural NBL Cup tips off in Melbourne this weekend with the basketball bonanza featuring 36 games and 18 days of double-headers, with all nine clubs competing.
"I'm so excited. I think it's innovative, some of the biggest leagues in the world do it and with $300,000 up for grabs players go even harder when there's a cash prize at the end,'' Williams says.
"It's an awesome initiative, there's way more games for fans to come and see all this top talent, the teams are stacked and sometimes their favourite team is only in town twice a season. Not now.
"High intensity world class basketball will be on display and on my days off I'll be there."
The NBL Cup starts Saturday in Melbourne.
Tickets for all games are just $10: nblcup.com.au
Watch live on SBS Viceland and SBS on Demand.
MEGAN HUSTWAITE HOSTS COURTSIDE 1V1 ON SBS
Originally published as How Corey 'Homicide' Williams earnt his name