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June 19, 2023

Former Sixer Lou Williams, who once defused a Christmas Eve robbery attempt, retires from NBA

The three-time Sixth Man of the Year recalled the frightening incident and the ensuing trip to a McDonald's in North Philly during a podcast appearance a few years ago

Few NBA players could make 20-point deficits look surmountable the way Lou Williams did during his 17-year career, which began in Philadelphia as the Allen Iverson era was coming to an end in the mid-2000s.

Williams, who didn't play last season, announced his retirement Sunday – and simultaneously marked Father's Day – by posting a video narrated by his daughter to Instagram. He ended his career tied with Jamal Crawford for the most Sixth Man of the Year Awards — he won it three times — and ranked 131st in NBA history with 15,593 points.

Williams was a second-round draft pick who came to the 76ers straight out of high school. He was a scrappy player who learned to make the most of his minutes, scoring a team-best 14.9 points per game for the Sixers in 2011-12 despite not starting a game. 

It was after Williams left Philly, during his stints with the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, that his value as an on-demand scorer became more apparent around the league. In 2018, he put up a career-high 50 points on the Golden State Warriors. And among his peers from the 2005 NBA Draft, only Chris Paul has scored more career points. 

During the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Williams tormented the Sixers by propelling the Hawks' 26-point comeback in Game 5, helping Atlanta win the series. Philly fans would prefer to look back more fondly on his game-winning, Easter Sunday shot in the 2011 playoffs, which prevented a first-round sweep by the Miami Heat.

"This team, they believe in me to make big shots, and you know, I wanted the ball in that position," Williams said during a postgame interview. "I felt like (if) we were going to lose tonight, it was going to be on my shot, and I got a lucky roll."

As exciting as Williams was on the court, his personality outside the game made him a fan favorite wherever he went.

During Williams' final season in Philly, he had a frightening encounter with a man who attempted to rob him as he sat in his car. On Christmas Eve in 2011, Williams had just finished getting a haircut at his barbershop near 22nd Street and Indiana Avenue in North Philly. Williams told his bodyguard to head home, saying he'd be fine getting home on his own. While stopped at a traffic light, Williams said he heard the sound of a gun tapping on his window.

"I just heard, 'click click click,' somebody knocking on my window," Williams said during a 2020 appearance on the "All The Smoke" podcast. "I look up, bro got the gun on me. I don't know why, but I rolled the window down. That's just where my mind took me. I rolled the window down, and he's like, get out the car. And I said, 'Huh?' And when I said 'huh,' he looked at me and he said, 'Lou? I can't even do it to you, bro. I got too much love for you.'"

At the time, Williams explained, he had been doing a lot of work in the community with rapper Meek Mill, who had grown up in that area. The pair had helped hold coat drives and other events in the neighborhood.

"That particular community, we just had our footprint on it," Williams said. "That's (Meek's) neighborhood. Philly had adopted me, and so whatever I was doing over there, he would get behind me. Whatever he was doing, I would get behind him."

The would-be robber was a Lou Williams fan and was aware of his work in the community. 

"He said, 'Man, I just got out of jail. All I've got is this gun and a bus token to get home, bro. I ain't got nothing to eat,'" Williams recalled.

Williams offered to buy the man a meal at a nearby McDonald's. It's a powerful story, but one Williams said has been distorted over the years. A news report from the time of the incident stated that Williams was held up in Manayunk, a neighborhood where crimes like that are less common. 

"They've made the story like I sat down and ate with him," Williams said. "Nah, hell nah! That mother****** ordered food, I swiped my card, I shook his hand (and) I said, 'God bless, bro, but this ain't the way."

Williams said he's grateful to the man for sparing his life.

"I was down bad," Williams said. "I'm going to keep it real. I was scared s***less. I ain't going to flex."