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The Life of Brian
John Ed Bradley
February 16, 1998
The Pistons' Brian Williams wants to say that, no, he doesn't eat dirt; no, he isn't depressed; and no, he's not...well, a lot of things you might have heard
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February 16, 1998

The Life Of Brian

The Pistons' Brian Williams wants to say that, no, he doesn't eat dirt; no, he isn't depressed; and no, he's not...well, a lot of things you might have heard

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Fits and Starts

In addition TO being much-traveled, Brian Williams (near right) has had his basketball career routinely interrupted, usually for health-related reasons. Here's his résumé, with 1997-98 statistics through the All-Star break.








29 G, 12.5 pts., 6.0 rebs.

ACC freshman of the year; doesn't like coach Bob Wade, transfers to Arizona




Sits out season as transfer



32 G, 10.6 pts., 5.7 rebs.

Begins feeling soreness in right knee, one of several injuries that will nag him over the years; scores 28 points in NCAA tournament first-round win over South Florida



35 G, 14.0 pts., 78 rebs.

10 double doubles, including 32 points and 14 rebounds against UCLA




48 G, 9.1 pts., 5.7 rebs.

10th pick in draft; holds out, misses first eight games; misses 26 other games partly because of injuries



21 G; 4.6 pts., 2.7 rebs.

Sidelined by clinical depression



80 G, 8.0 pts., 5.6 rebs.

Acquired in off-season trade; has healthiest season, and Denver reaches conference semifinals



63 G, 7.9 pts., 4.7 rebs.

Contract holdout in preseason; misses 16 games because of sore knee and is suspended for one game after leaving bench to aid teammate in altercation



65 G, 15.8 pts., 7.6 rebs.

Acquired in off-season trade; eighth in NBA in field goal pet. (.543); misses 11 games with tendinitis, one with strained knee, five with strained arch



9 G, 7.0 pts., 3.7 rebs.

After surgery on right knee, remains unsigned free agent until Chicago picks him up on April 2; strong play in postseason helps Bulls win NBA title



43 G, 16.9 pts., 9.7 rebs.

Signs with Detroit as free agent in off-season; has missed four games with tendinitis in right knee

Brian Williams gets home after practice, and his personal chef is cooking lunch. Williams takes a seat at a kitchen counter and checks out the headlines in the morning paper. As usual, none of the news is good: Another snowstorm is on its way from Canada, and the Detroit Pistons still have a crummy record.

The chef, Darryl Davis, is panfrying catfish, and smoke rises in piles from the stove. Today, along with the fish, Davis is serving Williams and a guest Cajun shrimp, a bean dish and a green salad crowded with croutons as big as alphabet blocks.

"Brian has to have everything fresh," Davis says. "Fresh carrots, fresh peas. See that grapefruit juice he's drinking?" Williams holds up a glass. "Fresh," Davis says.

Williams picks at the soul patch under his lip and throws a look at the guy he's invited to lunch. It's a long time before Williams speaks. "When are we serving the dirt?" he asks. "Is that what you're thinking?"

The man doesn't respond, because he has food in his mouth. But if he could say something, it would be: "So you mean that's not true, either?"

"The dirt thing is bull——," Williams says, seeming to read his visitor's mind. "It's complete and utter bull——. No, man, I've never eaten dirt—not for nutrients and not because it tastes good and not for any reason. Well, let me correct that. I have eaten dirt before, but it was only by accident. I fell off my mountain bike."

Davis gives Williams a second helping of fish, and he goes at it without saying anything. Williams, 6'11" and 260 pounds, seems to be trying to prove something. "People must think I'm some kind of oddball," he says at last, "because only an oddball would eat dirt for nutrients, right?"

But once again his guest is quiet. This Davis fellow can really cook.

There were other stories before the one about Williams's eating dirt, and there have been plenty of other stories since. Williams, 28, the starting center for a Pistons team that was 22-25 at the All-Star break, has his own peculiar mythology, and for years it's been dragging behind him like tin cans on string.

"I guess you heard I like to jump from airplanes, too, huh?" he asks, giving his head a shake. "The truth is, I skydived once, just once, down in Florida. I took a course for four hours, and then I had two instructors, one on each side of me. I sky-dive once, and next thing you know, it's all I do. What else did you hear?"

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