Feb. 25, 2011
"Brian Williams throws it up at the buzzer! Good! Let's see if it counts. Brian Williams, falling backwards, threw up the missed shot and it went in! Let's see if it got in before the buzzer went off. And they count it! They count it! Tennessee wins! Brian Williams shot at the buzzer wins it for the Volunteers as Tennessee takes it tonight over the Georgia Bulldogs on the road 59-57!"
The Voice of the Vols, Bob Kesling, probably never imagined he would be making the above call on that January night in Athens, Ga. Not for Brian Williams, anyways. Those calls are generally reserved for the Kobe Bryant's and Dirk Nowitzki's of the world, both of which have made a living off of them in the NBA. Fitting then, that the lighthearted Williams compared himself to both after draining the game-winning buzzer-beater to lift the Vols to their first SEC road win in 2010-11.
"I have a different game playing around than I do in a game," Williams said. "People think I can't shoot but I really do hit them a lot. The way that I hit it, I fade it away and land on the floor is Kobe-esque with Dirk-like footwork. That's what I compare myself to."
While Bryant and Nowitzki have been featured plenty in SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays, Williams' ability to replicate the `fade' and the `footwork' landed him atop the most prestigious countdown in daily sports television for the first time.
"I don't know how many Tennessee players have been on the Top 10 or number one for that matter. That should be number one probably for the whole year," Williams said with a smile.
Although the moment placed him in the spotlight, providing him with `more texts than he'd ever received in his life' and `around 1,000 more Facebook friends,' the Bronx, N.Y., product was more focused on what the shot meant for his team.
"It not only helped my confidence but it helped the teams'," Williams said. "Losing three out of our first four in the SEC would've been tough. To beat Georgia there in that kind of way with me hitting the shot, that was special."
Williams has displayed that team-first attitude throughout his career, especially as a senior leader. After starting 14 of the Vols' first 15 games, Williams was moved to the bench in a move to increase the second units' productivity. While some would've struggled with the change in role, the 6-foot-10 center took it in stride and embraced it.
"I'm just glad it's been working for our team," Williams said. "I've been playing better number-wise obviously off the bench than I was starting so it's beneficial for the team. I get to see what the game is looking like.
"With that second unit, I'm more of an offensive focus and it helps to get a quick bucket. Any big man will tell you if you get a bucket early, it makes things easier throughout the game. With that first group, we have firepower coming from everywhere. I'm getting the same minutes so it doesn't really matter to me if I start or come off the bench."
Williams' experience adds a dimension to the bench that it didn't previously have.
"The second group has a couple games under their belt but they're not like the first group," Williams said. "They haven't been places where our veterans have been. If I can win SEC Sixth Man of the Year, that's something I could be proud of."
While his buzzer-beater went under official review to confirm that it counted, no one will be able to debate that Williams will have plenty to be proud of when he leaves Tennessee, regardless of whether he adds any hardware to his trophy case or not.