ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - One of the men credited for bringing the NBA to Orlando has announced his retirement.
Orlando Magic co-founder, basketball Hall-of-Fame honoree and sports legend Pat Williams is stepping away from the sport, after a career that has spanned more than five decades, including more than 30 years with the Magic.
"We are so grateful to Pat Williams for what he has done for sports in Orlando, Fla.," said Orlando Magic Chairman Dan DeVos. "Back in 1986 sat this beautiful city in the center of the state that was the perfect spot to bring what was missing - NBA basketball to the great people of Orlando. On behalf of our entire family, we thank Pat for making the Magic a reality."
Williams, along with Central Florida businessman Jimmy Hewitt, began the process of bringing an NBA team to Orlando in 1986. On April 22, 1987, the NBA Board of Governors granted an expansion franchise to Orlando, and on December 22, 1988, the Magic sold their 10,000th season ticket, thus fulfilling their commitment to the NBA and the Magic were born.
Williams started his basketball career with the Philadelphia 76ers as the club's business manager in 1968. He followed that with his first general manager role in the NBA joining the Chicago Bulls as their GM at the age of 29. He remained a general manager in the league for 27 years in stints with the Bulls, Hawks and Sixers, playing a major role in bringing the NBA title to Philadelphia in 1983.
Williams served as the Magic’s first GM from the inaugural season in 1989 until 1996, when he became the senior vice president.
Williams was diagnosed in February 2011 with multiple myeloma. After several rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, the cancer is now in remission. Williams has accepted positions on several boards for different cancer groups throughout the country, including an appointment on the Board of Directors for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Williams is a former college baseball player, and he started his sports management career as a minor league baseball executive, before making the move to professional basketball. He is the author of over 100 books, including his most recent publication, Character Carved in Stone. He is also the father of 19 children — 14 of whom he and his wife Ruth adopted from foreign countries.
"Pat's many accomplishments will always be remembered, but ultimately he was a visionary who helped transform the world of sports in multiple ways," said Magic CEO Alex Martins. "From bringing the Magic to Orlando, to transforming sports marketing and promotions, he was always one step ahead. Pat forever changed the sports landscape in Orlando. He shined a light on what has been known for so long from native Central Floridians, that this is a fabulous place to live, work and play. We all owe him a debt of gratitude."