NYC streetball world honors Stixx Williams

Standing ovations from streetball crowds are usually reserved for mind-blowing dunks or game-changing 3-pointers.

But Tuesday at the Nike Pro City tournament in Manhattan, the crowd stood and cheered for a different reason: to honor a fallen comrade.

James Williams, who went by the nickname Stixx, died last week after suffering cardiac arrest during a game at Pro City. He was 34.

"He was the essence and foundation of summer hoops," Ray Diaz, the founder and director of the Nike Pro City League, said. "He was a fixture here."

Stixx was honored at Pro City and at tournaments all across New York last week. At Pro City, they invited Stixx's family onto the court for a prayer and organized a donation drive for the family.

"He loved his family and his wife," said cousin Junie Sanders.

He also loved the game.

Stixx earned his nickname for his slender frame. But he was a heavy burden on opponents. The 6-foot-8 left-hander could back down any opponent and score in the lane. He grew up in Brooklyn and played at Grady High School and later at Eastern Oklahoma State College.

But his greatest accomplishments -- locally at least -- occurred at the summer tournaments in New York City.

In addition to starring at Nike Pro City, Stixx also had standout performances at the Hoops In The Sun tournament at Orchard Beach and at the Entertainer's Basketball Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem, among others.

Still, Stixx will be remembered by those in the streetball community for more than what he accomplished on the court.

"He was always smiling, laughing and cracking jokes," Sanders said. "He was that kind of guy."

"It was bigger than basketball for me," Hoops In The Sun co-founder Randy Cruz said. "He was one of my best friends."

That's what you hear again and again from those who knew Williams best. They described a man with a welcoming demeanor, who was quick to make you laugh.

"He was just that kind of person, you couldn’t be mad at him for more than a couple of minutes," Ranate Williams, his wife, said.

Stixx worked as a counselor for at-risk youth in the city by day and traversed the city to play streetball tournaments at night.

Last Thursday, he knocked down a 3-pointer with about three minutes left in the first quarter of the first game at Pro City.

Soon after, he complained of pain in the lower part of his body and eventually went into cardiac arrest.

He died doing something he loved, but left those closest to him yearning for more.