EVEN TNT got no clear indications that Kelly Williams was hanging up his jersey.
Team officials are set to issue a formal statement later yesterday after sitting down with the one-time former MVP, who announced his decision to retire last Monday on social media.
KaTropa coach Bong Ravena expressed both regret and surprise in a brief chat with Malaya-Business Insight.
“Whatever decision he makes siyempre suportado namin siya. But at the same time nakakapanghinayang kasi, para sa akin, p’wede pa siya,” said Ravena.
“Ilang taon na ba siya, 36? 38? But still maganda ipinapakita niya dito,” added Ravena, who is overseeing TNT’s training bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy complex in Calamba, Laguna.
“Kaya siyempre, we were taken aback by his sudden announcement.”
The former Oakland U standout was made the top overall pick by Sta. Lucia Realty in the 2006 rookie draft, powering the Realtors to the Philippine Cup title and winning the MVP on his sophomore season. He also suited up with the national team during the 2007 and 2011 FIBA Asia Championships.
Before SLR disbanded in 2010 he was among the Realtors traded to Talk N Text, which he helped win five championships.
The surprise is compounded by the fact the five-time All-Star and one-time National Team member was just given a contract extension until the end of this year.
One thing that could have spurred Williams’ decision is his blood disorder, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which was diagnosed in 2009. This forced him to take a sabbatical from the PBA up to the following year’s Fiesta Conference.
The malady makes its bearer immuno-compromised in the current coronavirus pandemic, and Williams has pointed to it as the reason he has been contemplating retirement since 2013.
However, there was no allusion to that disorder in his announcement made through his twin posts on Instagram and Twitter:
“It’s with gladness & sadness that I announce my retirement from basketball. I couldn’t have predicted that I’d have the kind of career I was able to experience.
Thank you Philippines for giving me solid ground to grow as both a player and a man for the last 15 years. Thank you PBA for giving me access to your stage for 14 seasons and to the great fans who supported me during my time. I gave my all when I put Pilipinas and my teams on my chest and I hope you felt that. The Machine Gun signing off.”
Tributes readily poured in for Williams.
“Still in shock, gonna miss seeing @KelWilliams21 on the court,” said former TNT and national teammate Jared Dillinger.
“At the same time, I’m happy for your next chapter in life my brother. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to play alongside you on TNT and Gilas. But moreover I’m honored to call you my brother! We more then (sic) teammates.”