Robert Williams is pretty much the forgotten man in the Celtics’ frontline rotation. One of the biggest offseason questions is how the Celtics will replace Al Horford. They will have to do it by committee, and Williams wants to be part of that group, along with Enes Kanter, Vincent Poirier, and Daniel Theis.
Williams reported to the summer league team looking bigger than last season and with a large tattoo covering his Adam’s apple, reading “LOE”. It was a major step for Williams in his quest for full maturity. He spent his rookie season often injured or playing in short spurts.
For Williams, the 2018-19 season was more of a learning experience off the floor, about life as a professional and grown man. When he returned home to Vivian, La., Williams made the decision along with four of his friends to “LOE” tattoos as a means of bonding and to cement their friendship and commitment to each other.
“It’s LOE — loyalty over everything,” Williams said. “It took an hour, an hour and 20 minutes [to get done]. It hurt bad as hell, though. Loyalty means a lot, you know what I’m saying, more than family at times. Not everybody is going to be loyal to you, so I try to live by loyalty. Me and all my homeboys, we try to live by loyalty, be loyal to this game and it’s going to pay you back. You’ve just got to be loyal throughout everything.”
To say Williams experienced an interesting rookie season would be an understatement. He was tabbed “Timelord” because he was late for a media conference call and for his first summer league practice. He rented a condo near the team’s practice facility to make sure he was never late to practice again and spent much of his rookie season learning.
The tattoo serves as a symbol of his adulthood, his second major step of independence after the birth of his daughter, Ava, during the 2018-19 season.
One of the most difficult parts of seeking independence was walking into his parents’ home after getting such a profound tattoo.
“I’m grown now; my mom was just looking at it. She always told me if I was going to get neck tattoos, just at least wait until I got here [to the NBA],” Williams said. “At least I was old enough to where she can’t say nothing to me. My dad, he hates tattoos. He doesn’t even want to look at it but like I said, I’m grown now.
“I was supposed to get it a year ago, but I never had the time. I went back home at the beginning of the summer and I said I might as well go ahead and get it if this is what I am going to live by, my brand. I had to stamp it.”
“Loyalty over everything” is a constant reminder to Williams to be faithful despite all of the change and upheaval with the Celtics. Williams watched many of his teammates from his rookie season depart, including close friend Terry Rozier.
“Loyalty over everything is something we’ve been trying to live by since we’ve been younger,” Williams said. “But I feel like as far as the maturity level, I’ve been watching the crazy stuff [in the offseason] happen, watching the opportunity that’s in front of me — after being in the NBA knowing what could happen as far as injuries, trades, and all that stuff. It’s a lot of opportunity and I had to grow up.”
Fatherhood has also matured Williams. He is just 21 years old, but Williams said he understands that he is no longer alone on this NBA journey. Ava depends on him and he fully accepts that responsibility.
“It’s the best thing ever. I love my daughter. I love my daughter to death; I’d do anything for her,” he said. “I feel like she’s the main motivation. You want them to have everything. You want to see her smile. That’s crazy because it’s the first time I’m experiencing that and the drive is so urgent when you see her. You want to do everything possible for them. So I’m so thankful.
“It’s an amazing feeling. You’re someone’s Superman. You’re someone’s hero. That was a part of growing up, too. It made me want to put an emphasis on changing my ways and bettering myself for her. I’m going to be her hero. I want her to learn the right way and set a great example.
“This free agency is kind of like, yeah I’ve got to be prepared for anything in this league and everything that comes with it. It’s a grown man’s league, for sure.”
Williams’s role next season is uncertain, but he promises to be prepared for any opportunity. That’s part of his loyalty to the Celtics and becoming a productive NBA player.