Former Raptor Jerome 'Junk Yard Dog' Williams remains a fan-favourite
Back in Toronto for charity game during NBA All-Star weekend
Jerome Williams, the man they affectionately call JYD or Junk Yard Dog, was with the Toronto Raptors for less than three seasons but remains one of the best-loved players ever to take the court at the Air Canada Centre.
He's been back many times since his years as a Raptor and is still involved in community work in the city.
This week he's back again for an event called the Read 60 Charity Jam, just one of the many things happening in town ahead of the NBA's All-Star Game this Sunday.
His roots in Toronto go back even before joining the Raptors in 2001.
His college team, the Georgetown Hoyas, played the last NCAA game in Maple Leaf Gardens in 1994.
Toronto 'was a blessing'
Just over five years later, he was traded from the Detroit Pistons to the Raptors, who at the time had star Vince Carter. He was excited — so excited that he drove from Detroit to Toronto during a brutal February snow storm in the middle of the night to get to the city.
"The opportunity in Toronto was a blessing and I wanted to make sure I was there for my first official practice on time," he recalled. He passed up a morning flight to join his new team as fast as possible.
Stories like this made JYD a fan-favourite in Toronto.
"My parents taught me that if I wasn't having fun doing what I was doing, then I shouldn't be doing it," he said of his playing days.
Toronto All-Star Game 'will be groundbreaking'
He brings that ethos into his charity work.
"When you teach kids, you want to make sure they do things they love to do. When you get that fulfillment in life, it automatically makes you a more joyful person."
And that — along with the All Star Game — is what is bringing him back to Toronto. "The All-Star Game in Toronto is going to be groundbreaking," he said. "It's the 125th anniversary of Dr. James Naismith, the Canadian that invented the game."
The goal is to encourage young people to read for 60 minuntes every day, and to give them the books to read.
"It's all about raising money to support kids in the Toronto District School Board," he said. The funds go to buy books for students all the way up to high school.
There will be a charity basketball game featuring the Junk Yard Dog as well as Snoop Dogg. Drew Scott from the TV show Property Brothers, former Argos great Mike "Pinball" Clemons, Former Raptor Morris 'MoPete' Peterson and many others will be involved in the game.