Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams was known for his killer instincts on the court. In the years since stepping away from basketball, the former Rucker Park phenom is displaying the same savvy in his new profession. Here, he talks to Complex AU about the city that made him, the lessons he learned from basketball, and stepping away from the game on his own terms.
Australian basketball is in a legitimate golden era. Under the new ownership of Larry Kestleman, the National Basketball League is blending battle-hardened Australian vets with raw US talent looking to bypass the NCAA, and local kids who have come back from stints in foreign leagues. The combination of grit, grind and glamour is attracting the kind of attention the local league hasn’t seen since the ‘90s.
With this spotlight on the competition, there’s one particular personality who has seized on this opportunity to shine. A former league MVP, Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams is now best-known for his on-screen analysis of the game. The move from crossovers to commentary was one Homicide had never anticipated, but was ideally built for. A product of the famed Rucker Park and a scholar of the game and global leagues, Homicide has become Australian basketball’s most influential personality.
His story starts in the Bronx and the Rucker, takes him around the world with stops in China and Lebanon, and looks to finally be settling in Australia. After a wild ride in professional basketball, Homicide explains to Complex AU that the lessons he learned on the court have translated to the business world in the years since his retirement.
Complex AU: You are, without a doubt, someone who is always working, always connecting and making things happen. I feel like every time I talk to you, you’ve just come out of a meeting or you got a new deal or something like that. Can you tell me where all this hustle comes from?
Homicide: I prefer to use the term ‘diligently working’ rather than hustling. Hustling has negative connotations so I prefer not to use that word. I think the biggest thing for me is to always ensure that I’m putting myself in positions to win. What I mean by that is; plant the seeds, do the work, add value. When the seeds sprout, that’s the fruits of your labor.
When I came out here to Australia, that was basically ground zero. Starting things over, I wasn’t playing basketball anymore, I’m building a brand from the ground up. I ask, who am I as a non-athlete? You’ve got to start from scratch. I was in a different country with no roots on the ground here, and that was the biggest challenge.
I did the heavy lifting. Four years later, the things that are happening now are a result of the seeds that were planted year one, year two, year three. This shit takes time.
Complex AU: It’s interesting what you’re saying about life after basketball, It makes me think; every time you see an athlete retire, they cry. It’s the end of their career, and they’re leaving the game that they love behind. You’re someone who has retired from the sport and you’ve found success afterwards. When some retires from professional sport, how much uncertainty is in their head about the future at that point?
Homicide: Well, this is very important. I can only speak for myself on this matter, but let me put it into a non-athlete’s perspective. Just imagine the woman of your dreams; the perfect woman. She leaves you for every insecurity you have. And now you’re watching that woman with another man that has everything you’re insecure about: “I’m short, he’s tall. I’m not quick anymore, he’s lightning-quick. My body’s not the same, his body is. I’m older, he’s 15 years younger.”
Every insecurity you would have as an individual, they don’t have. And you’re watching it. What would that make you feel like? That’s how it is. Sometimes, the game leaves the player, the player doesn’t leave the game.
It doesn’t matter how good you are. You can have a $100 million in the account or $1, it’s where your mind state is at. I got everything that I could have out of the game, had a conversation with her, and was very grateful for everything she was able to provide for me. I said, “Look, it’s time we go our separate ways. Thank you”. I left the love of my life on my own, of my own accord.
Complex AU: So it’s the state of mind that is most important in managing yourself post-career?
Homicide: That’s right. To make it to the pros you have to be delusional. You have to be delusional to actually think you can make it, unless you’re someone like LeBron. Outside of the top 2% of athletes, everybody else is in a delusional state.
I’ve looked at myself in the mirror hundreds of thousands of times in preparation for a game, knowing I’ll be going up against one of the toughest opponents, if not an opponent way better than me, but I’ve had to tell myself, “He’s not better than me today. I’m going to win today.” I would put myself in a different state of mind that’s not reality to hype myself up and get me over the hump. The majority of athletes have to remain in this delusional state in order to succeed. For example, an AFL player might say “I’m playing Dustin Martin tomorrow, I’m kicking his ass.”
You’ve got to be in this mindset to succeed. But then, post-career, this is where mental health kicks in, this is where depression kicks in. This is where suicide begins to kick in. This is real talk. You still remain in this state and, after your career, you’re not that individual anymore. When do you go back to your normal state? Do you know how to go back to your normal state of mind? You’ve been in this world, in this mindset, for so long that this has actually become your identity.
Then when the game leaves you, you’re still trying to live like you’re in the game, so what are you doing? Spending money. You’re in that state of mind like, “I’ve still got it. I’m still doing my thing.” Four years later what happens? You’re broke. That’s what happens. It is very important that while you’re in the game understand the power that you have.
Complex AU: It’s rare that you hear someone speak so candidly about this kind of thing. But it seems like you’ve been able to work diligently, as you say, and manage that state of mind to continue your success after your career on-court.
Homicide: I was talking to a couple of the players in the NBL about life after the game. I asked them; “What’s your freedom strategy? What’s your exit plan? How will you put yourself in a position to transition safely and well after the game?”
While you’re in the game, talk to the sponsors. Go into pre-game functions. Go to the post-game functions, even after a loss. Find sponsors who actually have businesses you like. Offer to take them to lunch, offer to go do an internship for the company. You’re building rapport with people, allowing them to understand you are more than an athlete. Allowing them to understand that you want to learn the business.
It’s very hard to do both if you’re trying to be great as an athlete. It’s very difficult to learn business if you’re trying to be great in your sport. I was fortunate that an opportunity came while I was still playing and I saw my exit out of the game. This opportunity came my way while I was still in the game and, two years later, I left the game and became a full-time broadcaster.
My post-basketball career has been an easy transition and I’m grateful for that. That’s why I’m always smiling.