Jerome Williams

The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the RaptorBlog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans. We’ll count down a new Raptor every other Wednesday on this blog.

Jerome Williams’ Raptors résumé:

  • 18th in games played
  • 15th in minutes played
  • 8th in total rebounds
  • 5th in offensive rebounds

If you’re thinking that being 18th in franchise history in games played and 15th in minutes played isn’t all that impressive, I made a point of including that information because I bet you’re surprised he doesn’t rank higher. For a guy who a lot of fans considered to be “the ultimate Raptor”, he played 95 fewer games in a Raptors uniform than Joey Graham.

Jerome “Junk Yard Dog” Williams’ legendary status among Raptors fans began in February 2001 when he was traded here from Detroit. As the story goes, he drove his truck overnight from Detroit to Toronto so he could participate in the Raptors’ shootaround the following morning. He got his first dose of serious playing time with the Raptors on March 2, when he played 29 minutes, scored nine points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished three assists. Surprisingly, it was the only time in 26 games with the Raptors that season when he would grab double-digits in rebounds, but it gave us a glimpse of the sort of player Williams was — not particularly skilled, but long, athletic. and with as much heart and hustle as anyone in the NBA.

When Keon Clark left the Raptors to sign with the Kings in the 2002 off-season, this opened up the full-time starting power forward spot for Williams and he capitalized on the opportunity by having his best NBA season. His career-best per-game averages in minutes, points, rebounds, assists and steals all occurred during the 2002-03 season. I don’t know if he particularly enjoyed that season, however, since injuries kept Vince Carter and Antonio Davis out for lengthy periods of time and the Raptors plummeted from their second-round playoff appearance in 2002 to a 24-58 record.

However Jerome coped with the losing, there should be no doubt that Toronto was his favorite NBA city and the Raptors were his favorite NBA team out of the four franchises he played for. Another story that adds to the Junk Yard Dog legend in Toronto is that he reportedly wore his Raptors practice shorts under his Bulls game shorts for a while after he was traded to Chicago in December 2003. Just a hunch, but the seven-year, $40.8 million contract the Raptors granted him in 2001 (which accounted for more than 80 percent of his career earnings) might have had something to do with that loyalty.

No, he wasn’t really worth that much money, but he was supposed to be part of the core that would support Vince Carter in the Raptors’ journey to a championship. That destination was never reached, but even when Williams moved on, his heart never left Toronto and he never forgot the support he got from Raptors fans.

Jerome Williams has worked for the Raptors since January 2006 as a community organizer, and who else would be more qualified for that role? He loves Toronto fans and they continue to love him back. If you think he’s ranked too high in these rankings, you’re either too young to remember his impact or you have a short memory.