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In Memoriam | Summer 2017

In Memoriam: 2000s

Notices sorted by graduation date

Chris Williams
July 9, 1980–March 15, 2017

UVA basketball great dies at 36

Chris Williams

Chris Williams (Col ’02), one of the best players in Virginia basketball history—known as “Big Smooth” to Cavalier fans—died on March 15 in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. He was 36.

His father, David Williams, said the cause was complications resulting from a November car accident.

Williams, an All-ACC selection in three of his four seasons at UVA, is the only player in school history to rank in the top 10 in career points, rebounds, blocked shots and steals. 

Williams’ death, which occurred during the NCAA tournament, drew an outpouring of emotion.

“Great teammate and a great person,” tweeted former Virginia teammate Elton Brown (Col ’05).

“Brotherhood! #ONELOVE,” Travis Watson (Col ’03) posted on Facebook, next to a photo of himself, Williams, Adam Hall (Arch ’02) and Donald Hand (Col ’01) in a team huddle.

Following Virginia’s opening-round win over UNC Wilmington, coach Tony Bennett opened his press conference by paying homage to Williams. “The Virginia family lost a great player and a member of our program,” Bennett said.

Williams was recruited by former Virginia coaches Jeff Jones (Col ’82) and Pete Gillen. “He was a special person,” Gillen says. “He was very quiet and easygoing, very friendly, everybody really liked him. He was a really hard worker, very reliable, unselfish, a solid student. He led by example.”

Gillen says “Big Smooth” was the perfect nickname for the 6-foot-6 Williams. “He glided on the court,” Gillen says. “He was very smooth. He was very graceful. … He was a star player, but he was not loud or ostentatious. He was a winner.”

The ACC Freshman of the Year in 1999 led UVA to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and NIT appearances in 2000 and 2002, finishing his career ranked eighth on UVA’s all-time scoring list.

Williams, who played overseas for 14 years before returning to Birmingham to start a real estate business, was proud to be a ’Hoo. “He enjoyed his time there immensely,” his father says.

In addition to his parents, Williams is survived by two younger brothers and his grandparents.

Whitelaw Reid