Pete Williams: “Turkey Is My Second Home”

Röportajın Türkçe versiyonu için tıklayın.

He gave no respite to his opponents and amazed the fans at Spor Sergi stands with his spectacular dunks within the twelve years he spent in Turkey and the two years with Fenerbahçe. Our former American player Pete Williams, who played for Fenerbahçe between 1987-1989, answered the questions of Baran Arslan and Erdi Tiran from Salon Tribünü. (Translated by Osman Talha Sümer)

• Mr. Williams, welcome! Thank you, on behalf of “Salon Tribünü” crew, for your interest in our interview request. You were born in 1963 in Harbor City, California. You went to Nogales High School (Walnut, California). Could you please tell us about your childhood? Also, we would like to hear about your story of starting to play basketball.

I grew up with two brothers… One was two years older than me, the other one two years younger than me. I started playing basketball when I was 7 years old, shooting balls into a bicycle rim that was nailed into my grandparents’ garage.

• You spent your college years at Mt. San Antonio College between 1981 and 1983. You spent the next two years in Arizona, in which Steve Kerr played. You were drafted by Denver Nuggets in the NBA Draft in 1985 and you played there for two years. How would you describe your college years and NBA years overall? In which fields did you improve yourself?

I loved my college years. Mt. San Antonio was a beautiful school, and I played with some really good players there. Going to the University of Arizona is easily the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I enjoyed my NBA experience, but not as much as I should have. I gained much more appreciation for it later, as I got much older. My biggest improvement was gaining strength over the years. I was never going to be a big physical player, but even though I had a thin frame, I had wiry strength that really helped me.

• There is an interesting story of your transfer to Turkey stated by Yiğiter Uluğ. We asked the same question to your close friend Larry Richard, as well. According to him many basketball directors/scouts from Europe were looking for a suitable player for their team at the event held in the garden of Loyola Marymount University. Players, who would like to attend, were asked to pay $150. You took part in that event and helped your friend L. Richard to pay the $150. You agreed with the executives from Fenerbahçe for $130,000. Your friend Richard signed with Eczacıbaşı from Turkey, as well. Would you please tell us the story from your point of view.

First, I was never offered $130,000. I signed for $70,000, and that’s all I got. Larry is like my blood brother, so I would do anything to help him. We played on the same summer league team at Loyola Marymount, and Larry kept getting better as the league went on. He was close to signing with a team in France, for very little money. Thank god Eczacıbaşı saw the great potential in him and offered him a better deal to come to Turkey.

Williams dunking over Eczacıbaşı’s Tamer Oyguç and Yusuf Erboy. Source: and Orçun Başaran

• We finished the regular season of Turkish League at the top in 1987-1988 season. Just like the Presidential Cup final that we lost to Eczacıbaşı, we could not succeed in the Turkish League play-offs. In the last second of the second game we played against Çukurova Sanayi in the semi-finals, the ball that rival player Larry Spriggs threw from halfcourt was scored and we were deeply frustrated. It was a traumatic moment for the Fenerbahce players and fans who were at the Sports and Exhibition Center that day, and even a big fight broke out after the game. What would you like to say about that season and that Çukurova game?

We had a great regular season, but we just didn’t get it done in the playoffs. I remember when Spriggs hit that shot, it was shocking for everyone. There was so much chaos in “Spor Sergi” (Sports and Exhibition Center). I remember looking at the newspaper the next day and seeing the hurt, pain, and anger on so many people’s faces.

Your second season in our club was, unfortunately, much worse for the team. We finished fifth in the regular season of Turkish League, and we were eliminated by Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) in the Korac Cup. There was a change of coach in the middle of the season and the referee decisions in the play offs were discussed a lot. How would you talk about that season?

Second season was not as successful as the first season. We still had an opportunity to advance in the playoffs, but I had a difficult time playing with a broken bone in my hand. I feel like my hand was a target at times for people to hit, and despite the pain, I was not going to quit. Overall, we should have had better results than what we got.

You left Fenerbahçe in the summer of 1989 and signed a contract with one of our biggest rivals, Galatasaray. Was the reason you left our club because the team did not achieve the success they were looking for, or was there some other reason?

There were some money issues during my second season. I didn’t get everything I was supposed to, so I left. Despite the money issues, it was not easy leaving Fener to go to Galatasaray. Despite all the craziness that goes on with Fener, I really enjoyed my experience playing with them, and though I didn’t like being booed whenever we played them, I understood why.


You played together with Turkish players such as Ali “Aliço” Limoncuoğlu, Hakan Artış, Necdet Ronabar and Fatih Özal for two years in Fenerbahce. Who was your favourite player to play with? How was your relationship with your teammates?

Erman Kunter was my favourite player to play with. Erman could do it all! I had good relationships with all my teammates. They knew I worked hard and wasn’t selfish, so there was never any problem between us.

Do you remember the most unforgettable game you played in Fenerbahçe and the most interesting or unforgettable moment/thing you experienced off the court?

I can’t think of one unforgettable game, but I know shortly after I arrived, and we played at a tournament in Izmir, I played very well. I think I scored 43 points in one game. When that tournament was over, we went to Ankara for another tournament… I remember walking into the gym and hearing all these people saying “Williams Williams”. I was trying to figure out how they knew who I was. That’s when I understood how big Fenerbahçe is. Everything I did in Izmir in that first tournament, these people knew all about it. It was pretty awesome!

The most interesting thing off the court was driving my car in Istanbul! Everyday was an adventure, sometimes stressful, but I never had an accident!

In Fenerbahçe, the champion of İzmir Fair Cup, Williams with his number 15 jersey. Source:

Despite the panic caused on the US players by the Gulf War, you and Larry Richard did not leave Turkey and in that season (1990-!991) you played for TOFAŞ SAS and lost the Turkish championship to Fenerbahçe. How did you feel when you lost the championship to your old team and your friend Richard?

Losing to Fener in the finals didn’t bother me too much. They were heavily favored, and with Larry, Hüsnü (Çakırgil), and Levent (Topsakal), they should have been. We battled them though and took them to a game 5 winner take all in Antalya. All the pressure was on them, but to their credit, they came out and dominated that last game.

You spent many years in Turkey and Turkish basketball fans remember you with your spectacular dunks, reverse slam dunks and blocks. In fact, your nickname was “Spider-Man”. What do you owe your athleticism and talent to?

I was just blessed with the ability to run and jump. There’s nothing specific I did that helped me in those areas. I was also a quick jumper, which is a nice advantage to have.

You have crossed paths with your friend Larry Richard many times, but unfortunately, due to the foreign player limitation in Turkish League, you could not play together in the same team. What do you think you could do if you had the chance to play together in Turkey?

Larry and I could have been very successful together because of our work ethic, but we would’ve needed great perimeter shooters on our team to give us more room to work inside. We would’ve pushed each other like crazy, to be our very best. There wouldn’t have been too many rebounds left for anyone if we were on the same team.

Pete Williams with his close friend Larry Richard. Source:

• Fenerbahce used to play their games at the Sports and Exhibition Center (Spor ve Sergi Sarayı), which is currently used as a congress center. That gym was never a modern and a magnificient place, but had a special place for anyone who was interested in basketball in Turkey. As a foreign player, how was the atmosphere there and the support of the Fenerbahçe fans? Do you remember the “You Are Magic Pete Williams” banner that the fans prepared for you?

Spor Sergi was an old and beat up place to play, but there are so many great memories in that building. Seeing pigeons flying around inside while you’re playing a game is funny! The atmosphere was crazy inside when Fener was playing. I loved the “Magic Williams” banner. Whoever made that thing, I really want to thank them. That was special!

• As an American who lived in our country for a long time, what do you think about your experience with Fenerbahçe, the Turkish people and our country? How is your current relationship with our country? Have you had the chance to visit Turkey after your retirement?

I had an AMAZING experience playing for Fener because of Fener, everyone knew who I was. I understand that and appreciate the opportunity I was given. I have major love for Turkish people and the country. Turkey is my second home. Larry and I came back to Turkey in April 2019. It had been 20 years since O had last been in Turkey. We were treated unbelievably well by everyone there!

You retired from basketball in Turkey. How did you proceed in business life after retirement? How did you keep up your connection with sports, specifically basketball?

After retiring from basketball, I transitioned to Law Enforcement, working for the San Bernardino County Probation Department. Having a son that played basketball since he was seven years old has made it easy for me to stay connected to the game. I coached him from the time he was 7 years old, up until he was 14 years old and starting his first year of high school. Then, I could just sit in the stands and be a proud dad!

• After the 80s and 90s, when opportunities were limited, Fenerbahçe expanded its investment in the 2000s and have become one of the leading clubs in European basketball and won the EuroLeague Cup in 2017. Do you find the opportunity to follow Fenerbahce? What do you think about our club’s improvement?

I am amazed how big basketball is in Turkey! The beautiful basketball arenas they have now. When Larry and I was there two years ago, we toured the Fenerbahçe Ülker Arena. It is a very beautiful place! The amount of money the players make is unreal! I follow Fener, and I’m very aware of the success they had in EuroLeague!

We would like to thank you for taking time for this interview on behalf of Salon Tribünü Crew. And lastly, what would you like to say to Fenerbahce and Turkish basketball fans?

I am so thankful for the wonderful memories I had with Fenerbahçe. Despite the money problems I had in my second year, I was never bitter. I just moved on. It makes me smile when I see the pride and passion the Turkish basketball fans have for their teams. The fans play a huge role in the success of their teams, so may all of you continue on with that amazing spirit! Take care Everyone! Love you all! “En büyük Fener!” (Fener is the greatest).

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