Black Pioneers: Corliss Williamson

Corliss Williamson
Photo courtesy of the Museum of American History, Cabot Public Schools.

On this date in 2005, Corliss Williamson was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Sacramento Kings. Williamson is a retired National Basketball Association player from Arkansas, but during his career, he helped the University of Arkansas Razorbacks win the 1994 National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Corliss Mondari Williamson was born on Dec. 4, 1973, in Russellville, one of two sons of Jerry and Bettye Williamson. During his career at Russellville High School, Williamson earned all-conference and all-state honors three times. During both the 1990–91 and the 1991–92 seasons, Williamson was awarded the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. 

After graduating from high school, Williamson attended the University of Arkansas. During his sophomore season, Williamson helped lead the Razorbacks to a 31-3 record and the university’s only NCAA national championship under Nolan Richardson. At the end of the tournament, Williamson was named the Most Valuable Player of the Final Four. During his junior year, the Razorbacks went 32-7 and tied for first in the Southeastern Conference Western Conference. In 1995, Williamson helped the Razorbacks return to the national championship game; however, in that game, the University of California at Los Angeles Bruins defeated them 89-78. In 1994 and 1995, Williamson was named the SEC’s Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. 

Williamson opted out of his senior year and entered the 1995 NBA draft where the Sacramento Kings chose him as the 13th overall pick. During his twelve-year NBA career, Williamson played for four different teams — the Kings, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76s. He won an NBA championship while playing with the Pistons during the 2003-2004 season. 

On Sept. 26, 2007, Williamson announced his retirement from the Sacramento Kings and from the NBA during a news conference at the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Museum in North Little Rock. After the news of his retirement, Williamson took an assistant coaching position with the Arkansas Baptist College Buffaloes in Little Rock. In March 2010, he announced his move to the University of Central Arkansas, and in 2013 he became an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings. The following year, he joined the Orlando Magic as assistant coach.

Williamson has three sons and currently resides with his wife, Joan Michelle White, whom he married in July 2001. On Feb. 18, 2015, the Razorbacks retired his number.