Former Cleveland Cavaliers big man John “Hot Rod” Williams passed away of cancer on Friday morning, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. His agent Mark Bartelstein confirmed the news.
Williams spent nine of his 13 NBA seasons in Cleveland. The Cavaliers drafted the 6’11 big man in the second round of the 1985 NBA Draft, but he didn’t join the team until 1986 because of legal issues that stemmed from the infamous point-shaving scandal at Tulane. He was acquitted of the charges.
Williams then proceeded to be a key member of the Cavaliers throughout his nine seasons with the team. He averaged 14.6 points and 7.9 rebounds as a starter in his rookie year, but he had his best season in 1989-90 when he came off the bench for much of the season. The big man averaged 16.8 points and 8.1 rebounds that year.
After that strong campaign, the Miami Heat signed Williams to what was then a massive seven-year, $26.5 million offer sheet with $5 million front-loaded in the first year. That contract made him the highest-paid player in league history and paid him twice as much as Michael Jordan. Cleveland matched the offer sheet.
Williams went on to play three seasons with the Phoenix Suns and finished his career in 1998-99 with the Dallas Mavericks.