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(Photo: Stephen Wells)
(Photo: Stephen Wells)

PartnersMay 11, 2019

My Obsession: Guy and Paul Williams on their love of basketball

(Photo: Stephen Wells)
(Photo: Stephen Wells)

Guy and Paul Williams are brothers, comedians, and lifelong ballers; they love basketball so much they’ve dedicated a weekly podcast to it. They spoke to each other about their obsession with basketball.

This story originally ran in Barker’s 1972 magazine.

Paul: Growing up, Guy and I used to play in the backyard a lot. And because I was half his size, we had rules like he couldn’t block my shot with his hands, he had to block it with his face, which is crazy – he had to try and get his face in the way of a basketball.

Guy: But I did it. It was good for me, because I was naturally a lumbering forward and Paul was fast and good at changing directions. It was really good training for my fitness.

These days if we play against each other we are normally not guarding each other. We come across each other when Paul drives to the hoop.

I haven’t played much basketball recently because Paul drove to the lane and aggressively kneed me in the testicles and I had to go to hospital.

Paul: In the heat of the moment I called it a blocking foul against Guy. But I definitely felt bad when he went to the bathroom and came back and said, “I’ve got to go to the hospital because my testicles are swollen”. It was then I got quite dizzy. I can’t handle any talk about medical stuff.

Because of our age difference, we’ve only started playing together on the same team recently. We’ve been playing in the North Shore B-grade. It’s a low standard of competition.

Guy: We famously lost a game to Jeff Wilson, the former All Black. It’s just weird when you’re playing basketball against Jeff Wilson, Goldie, your childhood hero. But he’s pretty old now.

Paul: He was probably good at basketball when he was younger. But he didn’t look like a basketballer. He was a rugby player playing basketball.

Guy: He drove to the hoop a lot and got a lot of free throws so that was a great opportunity to have a bit of banter with Jeff Wilson. I try and keep it light because they were an old man team and they are always fiery. They’re almost all ex Tall Blacks and they’re insanely competitive, but they’re 60 now and their knees have gone.

Paul: Guy calls what he does banter. It’s trash talk. But most people in New Zealand don’t take it well.

Guy: I felt bad because I thought it was friendly banter. But I definitely crossed the line. When he missed a free throw I said “Old Goldie choking like he did in the Bledisloe!” I forgot – this always happens to me, a Freudian slip – but I’d completely forgot that he famously spilled the ball over the tryline when George Gregan knocked the ball out of his hands in that try-saving tackle. I think that pushed him too far because he came back with “I never thought you were funny, mate”.

(Photo: Stephen Wells)

Paul: So the game was tied. Our ball. Two seconds on the clock. I’m the inbound passer and I tried to throw Guy the pass and he got fouled like hell, he couldn’t move, there was a man holding him around the waist. In a properly officiated game that was a technical foul, but their big man intercepts my pass and just hurls it the length of the court. It was the longest shot I’ve ever seen, and swish, they win.

Guy: Jeff Wilson celebrates like they’ve won the Tri Nations. I got caught up in the emotion and I was celebrating too, and then Jeff Wilson and I hugged. It was the greatest moment of my sporting career.

Paul: That’s why Guy and I can’t play on the same team. To see Guy hugging Jeff Wilson in that moment, I was so pissed off.

Guy: It was only because we lost on such a comedy play, the scragging and fighting, and then that shot. That shot will never happen again.

Sport is a big silly joke. We’re watching grown adults run up and down a court in sponsored magic shoes trying to pop a ball through a ring to find out who’s the best at popping a ball through a ring. It’s ludicrous, and I think our podcast treats sport with the reverence it deserves. I do sometimes wonder that if we are going to waste our lives focusing on something as meaningless as sports you may as well talk some shit while doing it, and that’s why we started the podcast.

Paul: I was already spending so much time following the NBA and watching games that when Guy suggested we start a podcast it made a lot of sense to me.

Guy: The name “Advanced Analytics” is a pretty poor attempt at a joke – I find jokes are the best when you explain them. People take basketball analysis very seriously to the point where huge numbers of fans casually talk about advanced metrics. It’s really weird and cool. But our podcast is a silly podcast, it’s about as far from advanced analytics as you can get.

We’re more likely to comment on a player’s sweatbands than their “true shooting percentage”.

Our obsession with basketball came from growing up in Nelson. It is, weirdly, a basketball mecca. Just a place where basketball grabbed you. Our neighbours’ grandad is a legend: Trevor Wright, he was the first man to coach New Zealand men’s and women’s basketball.

Giants basketball is the only thing to do on a Friday or Saturday night there. The Nelson Bays rugby team was in the second division and would get maybe 1000 people to the game, while the Giants were closer to 2000, indoors. The atmosphere, the legendary players: Phil Jones, Ed Book, Kenny Perkins…

Paul: We went to every game. Through the 90s and early 2000s the Giants would have been in most of the semi-finals, but we struggled to get it across the line. We do have three championships: 1994, 1998, 2007.

(Photo: Stephen Wells).

It was Nelson that got us into the NBA too.

Guy: We had a neighbour who was like a big brother to me, he was two years older. He had family in Orlando and he would come back from the United States and bring us Orlando Magic stuff when it was Shaq and Penny in the 90s.

We all started as fans of the Magic but Paul’s stayed loyal since the 90s. Now, my favourite NBA team is the Toronto Raptors. After the Magic I picked a new team and I supported the Clippers through the Elton Brand years. I just bought an authentic Lamar Odom Clippers jersey from that era. I got it off a discount rack, an authentic original from outside a random store on a random street in Japan. Not many Japanese people can fit an XXL.

Everyone at school was collecting basketball cards. They were like the Pokémon cards of their time. Even if you weren’t into basketball you still wanted to trade the cards. Starter gear was huge, Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets. You could buy this stuff at Farmers and that’s probably something that will never happen again.

Paul: Basketball was so big back then, you could get a Shaquille O’Neal Reebok hat from the back of a Coco Pops packet. I still love the Magic. It’s been tough times since the 90s, but I’m confident we are on the rise.

Guy: One of Paul’s weird dreams is to sing the national anthem before a Magic game.

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