Being an NBA player is a high-profile occupation. For one, players typically look like giants among men, so there’s a physical delineation that makes it easy to differentiate them from the general public. The proliferation of services like NBA League Pass, League Pass Broadband and good old fashioned internet piracy have made it relatively easy to watch any team regardless of your location, raising the profile of NBA players the world over. And the rise of social media has made it possible for players and teams to converse directly with a fans all over the globe, which has helped to increase the NBA’s status as one of the most popular leagues in the world.
But even though the NBA is bigger than it has ever been, there’s still opportunity, especially with the anonymity the internet affords, for identities to be mistaken. Such was the case when Hollywood writer/director/producer JJ Abrams, most well known for directing the two most recent “Star Trek” films and the upcoming “Star Wars VII” movie, tried to contact children’s book author Mo Willems, but was mistakenly put in touch with Portland Trail Blazer Mo Williams.
“Like most bipedal parents, we all discovered Harry Potter together, reading the books aloud to our kids,” said Abrams in an interview with The New York Times. “But one of my favorite children’s authors was introduced to us by our youngest son. When he was in kindergarten he brought home some books by Mo Willems, who has one of the most remarkable comedic voices I’ve ever read. His sense of humanity — of heart and generosity — is staggering. I was so blown away, I got his number from his agent and called him. I was essentially a sycophant, expressing what a deep fan of his I am, how I would love to work together one day. He was quiet on the phone, almost monosyllabic, disinterested. Frankly it was a bit of an odd reaction. It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered that I had, in error, called Mo Williams of the Portland Trail Blazers.”
An understandable mistake, seeing as how “Williams” is a rather common last name and is pronounced the same way as “Willems”. But that wasn’t where the confusion ended. According to Mo Williams the Portland Trail Blazer, he didn’t even know who he was conversing with until the article was brought to his attention by a yours truly after a recent practice.
“I didn’t know he did the “Star Trek” movies!” said Williams of Abrams. “He need to put me in a movie! Shoot, I can act. I do it all the time.”
According to Williams, he and Abrams even conversed via email before speaking on the phone, which added another level of hilarity to the interaction between Portland’s backup point guard and one of the most prolific names in Hollywood.
“I got a lot of friends and I played in L.A., so I got a lot of Hollywood friends, so I thought it was someone I had met or someone I came across,” said Williams. “I was corresponding with him then I realized he might have have me kind of messed up with somebody else. We’re going back and forth on email, that’s the new age of communication. We were actually talking and he was giving me a lot of compliments. I felt like he was talking about me, you know, how great of a person I was. I was like ‘Yeah, that’s me! That’s me.’ I told him thank you. Then he said something that caught me like ‘Well, I don’t really remember that.’”
The “something that caught” Williams was Abrams referencing Willems’ work, which includes titles such as “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale”, “Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Out Late” and “The Duckling Gets A Cookie?!”. But as it turns out, Williams was considering going into Willems’ business, which only added coincidence to confusion.
“The crazy thing about it, I’ve been talking to friends about writing children’s books because I have a lot of kids,” said Williams. “But I still thought, ‘I think he’s got me mixed up with another guy.’ It was funny once I realized it.”
With everyone’s identity now sorted out, Williams says he would like another opportunity to talk to Abrams. And since he’s now got his personal email address, it shouldn’t be too hard to pull off.
“I think I’m going to reach out to him. JJ Abrams, let’s get together man. Let’s communicate, have a lunch, have a dinner, whatever. Maybe I could become a movie star.”
(And since we’re talking about Mo Williams and Hollywood, here’s Williams in a Barack Obama costume with Alfonso Ribeiro of “Fresh Prince Of Bel Air” fame and former Major League Baseball player David Justice)
(And a hattip to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton on the Abrams interview)