Profile | Billy Owens, victim of the hype

As an 8-year-old, Billy Owens decided his future. He went to find his father, who led the training of a team of children. “Hey, Dad, I’m becoming a professional basketball player!”

Autumn 1991. Fourteen years later, Eugene Williams Owens is reaching his goal. With his 2.06m for 102kg, his wide and round shoulders, his wrapped hips and his big hands, Owens, number 3 in the draft from the previous spring, can play anywhere. 2, 3, 4 … “It’s a real deal”exclaims Jerry Reynolds, general manager and coach of the Kings, who compares him to the greatest and straight … with Magic Johnson.

“There is only one magic, says Owens. But it’s true that I’m very inspired by his game.

Owens was born on May 1, 1969 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the hometown of Jim Thorpe, winner of the 1912 Olympic tikamp, ​​which would later become a baseball and football legend. As the youngest of a family of three boys and two girls, he saw his father, Billy Sr., perform three tasks to support his clan. Billy inherited his hard-working and pragmatic spirit. Father of 18 years to a little Lavail Demetrius, Owen’s son knew how to avoid the most common mistakes among elements of his generation. “I want to have fun, but also prepare for the future of my son and my family.”

From an early age he used his abilities to the fullest and always denied failure. “I hate to lose. Just ask my big brother. We have often given each other donuts for Nintendo games … My dad is also a tough loser. He withdrew pocket money from me for every defeat!”

A star in Syracuse

At Carlisle High School, Billy lost just 11 of 129 games. Wilt Chamberlain. During his senior year, Owens averaged 34 points. Four times in a row, Carlisle will be crowned head of state. At the time, two high school students returned to all discussions: Alonzo Mourning and Billy Owens. They also end up as co-MVP for McDonald’s All-American. Owens chooses Syracuse University, where he crosses paths with Derrick Coleman. Passed in the NBA, Coleman has been named Rookie of the Year 1991. Billy, him, is unanimously voted Player of the Year at the Big East Conference and “All America.” His stats testify to his slaughter: 23.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 against.

“If he’s not the best, he’s close to it, and in addition he knows how to get others to play”says Jim Boeheim, the coach of Syracuse.

“It’s hard to fault him. Its strength is being able to play anywhere»emphasizes Bucky Buckwalter, leader of the Trail Blazers.

“He has Buck Williams’ stature (note: formerly 4 of the Nets, Trail Blazers and Knicks) and the qualities of Clyde Drexler”ends Jerry Reynolds, his new coach.

For many GMs, Owens, 22 at the time, was the best product to come out of the draft. However, there were rumors of heart problems. He is also being criticized for his somewhat chubby physique. Serious tests prove that the look is deceptive. The Hornets, who are enjoying the first choice, still prefer Larry Johnson, out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. They justify themselves by highlighting the great qualities of rebound inside the UNLV. Nets, who have the second choice, change their minds at the last minute and take the country’s child, New Yorker Kenny Anderson (ex-Georgia Tech). The leaders of Sacramento do not believe their own eyes: Owens is always available … He has accomplished virtually everything he has done during his three years in Syracuse, except participating in the NCAA Final Four. He won bronze with the United States at the World Cup in 1990. His first professional challenge will be to adapt to the defeat. The Kings have not reached the playoffs since 1986 and have the enviable title of the NBA’s Worst Offense. Billy is asked to form an ambitious tandem with Lionel Simmons, second best rookie in 1991.

Transferred the night to the Draft

“Pippen and Jordan complement each other perfectly. They do what their team needs at the right time. That’s what we expect from Billy and Lionel “comments Jerry Reynolds.

It should be noted that Owens is in the crosshairs. He left Syracuse a year before completing his university course and explained that he was “tired and bored of student life”. Gossipers claim Billy left before possible NCAA sanctions. An investigation is under way in Syracuse following reports in a newspaper in December 1990. The team allegedly provided certain players, including Coleman and Owens, with cash, cars and all sorts of benefits prohibited by law. One player also claimed that the coaches had changed Owens’ notes to allow him to keep his place in the Orange Men team … Owens is being heard by investigators. Once he has become a professional, he refuses to answer questions. Some prospects have never managed to leave the academic cocoon (no, Mateen Cleaves?). Owens knows what he wants. For a long time. At the time of the draft, he was making a fight against Larry Johnson. Larry forced himself. He wore basketball shoes, and Billy wore sneakers.

Since then, Billy has continued to claim: “I want my revenge. I’m going to be Rookie of the Year.” Lost ! With 19.2 points, 11 rebounds and 3.6 assists on average, “Grandma” will be comfortably named best starter. Worse: Sacramento’s confidence was shattered the day Golden State offered to swap Billy Owens with Mitch Richmond, the Warriors’ second highest scorer with 23.9 points per game. match.

On November 1, 1991, No. 3 in the draft was sent to the Warriors … who were still biting their fingers. With Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, Golden State has a trio – “Run TMC” (for Tim, Mitch and Chris) – absolutely infernal. All three players exceed 22 points per. match. Hardaway and Mullin are All-Stars. Warriors have a flamboyant attack, spectacular as possible. But she did not survive an elimination in the conference semifinal against the Lakers (4-1). Oakland is all too often dominated inside. The California franchise wants to strengthen its racket, even if it means sacrificing one of the most productive trios in history. The Warriors turn their eyes to Billy Owens.

His rookie season is just right (14.3 pts, 8 rebounds, 2.4 wt, 1.1 int). In the role of sixth man, Lithuanian full-back Sarunas Marciulionis makes an unexpected contribution (18.9 pts on average). Golden State brings together 55 victories and ranks third in the Western Conference. But Hurricane Shawn Kemp passes by … In the first round of the playoffs, Seattle shakes barely (3-1). Golden State is all the more disappointed that Owens is not bringing the expected inner presence. He’s a little striker who likes to get out of the way of having fun shooting, not a strong winger who goes to the litter to do the dirty work …

We laugh at the scout reports that dared to bring him closer to Larry Bird. The following year, the Warriors finished penultimate in their pool with 34 wins. Owens is injured in the knee and plays only 37 games. The emergence of the Latrell Sprewell-Chris Webber duo in 1993-94 opened up interesting perspectives, especially when Tim Hardaway spent the year in the hospital due to a broken knee ligament (Avery Johnson acts). The team signs on its return to the playoffs (swept away by Phoenix in the first round), but behind the scenes, the storm is brewing. Don Nelson and Chris Webber have a terrible relationship. To join Owens and Webber, “Nellie” is obligated to move the other in pivot. “C-Webb” tastes very moderately its role as Admiral Nelson’s variable geometry systems.

To ease the situation, the latter sent Owens to Miami against the US-Lebanese pivot Rony Seikaly. A bad calculation, as Webber, indignant, after all, will decide to pack his suitcases, heading for Washington … For Billy, a long transhumance begins, which becomes even more painful by the impossibility of being 100% and therefore becoming the basketball player he was .

A year in Miami. A year in Sacramento. A comeback to Florida. Two seasons with Kings. Crumbs in Seattle, Philadelphia, Golden State and Detroit … When he starts, Owens brings his 10 to 14 points. But the top prospect that made the NBA recruits drool with his Swiss Army knife will never be more than an obscure supporting role.

His career ended in Michigan in 2001, and then he took over the management of the small university Rutgers-Camden, in Division III, where he will be an assistant for 17 years. Three years ago, Kevin Durant explained that his first role model was Billy Owens.

Today, Owens follows the career of his son, Chaz, a sophomore in … Syracuse. Of course.


12 years

600 matches (475 starts)

11.7 pts, 6.7 rbds, 2.8 pds, 0.95 int, 0.54 ct

48.1% on shots, 29.1% on 3 points, 62.9% on penalty throws

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