Birdman fly in any weather. This is the exact prototype image that my mind conjures any time the American Basketball Association (ABA) is mentioned. In 1971, Topps sets began including cards of ABA players and did so until the merger in 1976. The team depicted on the card is the St. Louis Spirits. The Spirits existed only for two seasons and were one of the teams that did not survive the merger.
James “Fly” Williams is a New York streetball legend, and Rick Telander prominently features Williams in his non-fiction book Heaven is a Playground. The book was turned into a terribly awesome movie of the same title, but it is unclear if either of the fictional characters Truth Harrison or Matthew Lockhart (played by #randomathlete Bo Kimble) was based on Fly. Click here to view the trailer.
Williams once pulled a Wilt Chamberlain, scoring 100 points in a game during a dominating high school basketball performance. There is no data available to tell us if Williams matched Wilt’s dominating performance in the bedroom, but I think it is safe to say he didn’t. No one did. Fly’s success continued on a collegiate level at Austin Peay, averaging 28.5 points per game during two seasons there, before he was selected in the first round of the 1974 ABA draft. After a subpar rookie season, Williams became a pro basketball washout.
James “Fly” Williams played just one season with the Spirits and goes down as one of the greatest players never to play in the NBA. Like many streetballers, his game didn’t translate to the structured team environment of the pros. His legacy and story does make this card somewhat valuable, so I’m happy to have it my collection.
Note: All cards I write about are ones from my own collection.[related-posts]