Over his first six seasons as a Net, Buck Williams missed a game.
If Julius Erving etched his Nets legend soaring through the air, Charles Linwood “Buck” Williams built his with rugged reliability and dogged persistence, leaving a greater impact on the franchise than any other player the team has drafted in its four decades in the NBA.
Nearly 30 years after his Nets tenure ended with a trade to Portland, where he helped the Trail Blazers reach two NBA Finals in three seasons, Williams holds most of the same spots atop the franchise leaderboards that belonged to him when he left in 1989.
Williams retired as the franchise’s leader in games played (635), points (10,440) — since surpassed by Brook Lopez — and rebounds (7,576), his name and No. 52 etched on a well-deserved banner in the Barclays Center rafters.
From the moment the Nets drafted him third overall out of the University of Maryland in 1981, Williams was the franchise’s indispensable foundation.
At Maryland, he had twice been named All-ACC, and was selected for the 1980 U.S. Olympic basketball team that lost its chance to play for the gold with the boycott of the Moscow games.
For the Nets, he played 34.5 minutes per game as a rookie, averaging 15.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, earning the first of three NBA All-Star Game selections and taking home the league’s Rookie of the Year Award.
With Williams’ arrival, the Nets made their second NBA playoff appearance in 1982 after reaching the postseason just once in their first five years in the league. It was the first of five straight playoff appearances, and in 1984 they knocked out the defending champion Philadelphia 76ers.
Each year, Williams added a new piece to his offensive game, and his production rose steadily, peaking at a career-high 18.3 points per game during the 1987 season. Everything else about his game was rock-solid reliable. He averaged 12-plus rebounds per game in each of his first six seasons until 1987-88 — when he averaged 11.9. Williams never shot lower than 52 percent from the field as a Net and never averaged fewer than 33 minutes per game in a season, playing in all but 21 games the Nets played over his eight years.
He returned to the NBA All-Star Game in 1983 and 1986 and was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 1988. In 1988 he earned his first NBA All-Defensive Team honor, with Second Team recognition.
In his eight seasons with the Nets, Williams averaged 16.4 points and 11.9 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the field in 36.4 minutes per game.