Last Thursday, August 4th, I had the opportunity to interview Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams. I was approached by eBay about the opportunity when Williams attended the 2022 National Sports Collectors Convention.
We talked trading cards, what he’s working on this offseason, and his nickname “Batman.” Here’s the full interview, placed in the latest episode of The Simone NBA Showalong with the video and audio versions.
Full interview with Williams
Jack Simone: Thank you for taking the time. I appreciate you speaking to me and the opportunity. I just wanted to start off in general terms, could you tell me what you did with eBay at the Nationals [Sports Collectors Convention] this last weekend?
Williams: Yeah, so I was on eBay selling tickets for the Wounded Warrior Project. All proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project for their live beta. This introduction is one of those things that we just keep getting better at. And I think even for the event we did last week I thought it was amazing. Just because not only was the beta successful and you see the technology and progress that eBay is able to continue to develop and provide through the trading card and trading community, but it was also one of those things where there was just a good good vibes at the Nationals, a great community. And it allowed us to be a little bit more connected, but also, you know, we enjoyed the collectible side of eBay. Because normally you can get anything in the world on eBay, but having the collectors site, getting your cards valued and making sure everything is up to standard, authentically guaranteed, that was amazing to me.
Simone: Yes, I mean eBay has it all. And that leads to my next question, you know, are you a big trading card guy? Only about the favorite cards you have. Anything you’ve come across can be Pokemon, NBA, or anything you collect like what’s your favorite that you have?
Williams: Well, I actually love, I loved Pokemon growing up. We’ve had brochures and brochures from Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards. My mom actually threw them away, so I was really mad at her, let’s put it that way. And my favorite card, I remember back then, I loved Yu-Gi-Oh! and red eyes black dragon the card i had was sick. Though it wasn’t the most popular card but I was a jelly guy so it was pretty cool for me. And then when it came to Pokemon, I was a grass guy because my family, my brother, got to choose Charizard, he got first place every time. Because in order to get the game we would have to beat it with the same game and next you switch starters. So Gabon was Squirtle and I was Bulbasaur. And next, you’ve kept it moving, generation after generation. That’s how it was, I remember it historically from my collector tribe. Now starting my new collection, I have a Mewtwo… [Williams’ microphone cut out here] did you hear all that
Simone: I think you’re cutting off a bit if you talk a little bit about the Mewtwo map. But you said you graded her, is that what you said?
Williams: Yes, I graded them. I am sorry. I’m on my way. So maybe I’ll cut a little bit. I graded her. Mewtwo was 9.5 years old. Pikachu was a 10, it was a flawless 10. It was dope. I was hyped about that. They reminded me why I loved collecting cards back then. And I would like to continue. I’m trying to find a box that I can open myself on a stream, on Twitch, or even on eBay. I’ll be happy to do that again. Because I have a feeling that would be even more fun.
Jack: Next, I wanted to dive into the NBA a bit. Talk about your game. You obviously made a big step this past season, one of the NBA’s top three-pointers. What are you working on this offseason like you did in your three point shot last year?
Williams: Taking pictures on the go is the best. Not necessarily like Duncan Robinson, who takes photos along the way, but more pick-and-pop. Just make sure you like the shots I have to do in the coming season because the teams are going to drive me away, the teams are going to be hard fought so that’s one. Defensively, I would like to improve defensive actions such as screaming actions. Whether off ball or on. Because I’m doing a great job in isolation, I want to improve, let’s say I’m guarding Steph [Curry] or Trae Young come off screen and be able to negotiate and navigate those screens. And the last thing I have to do is finish my edge, whether it’s with floaters or touch shots, you know. Wo, those between shots, so if I can’t get to the rim for a layup, I can have that in my arsenal.
Simone: I saw that in a layup against them [Brooklyn] nets last year. Give yourself some credit. I think the conclusion is here.
Williams: That was a layup though. Next I’m trying to get the floater package down, right?
Simone: Next I wanted to ask you about the nickname Batman. Obviously last year it swept Twitter, swept the Celtics fandom. When exactly did this start? Was it you who came up with it and what do your teammates think of it?
Williams: I didn’t think of it. My dad actually told me two years ago when I was guarding Joker [Nikola Jokic] and I have guarded him well. And he said, ‘We’re going to call you Batman silly from now on. And then the next season I did it again I think and played well. And so he texted me after the game and I was basically just joking with JB [Jaylen Brown]. I thought, ‘My dad says you have to call me Batman from now on.’ And then JB said it to the media and it just kept going from there. It sticks. So it’s fun. I love it. It’s a great nickname. I’ll keep it forever if I can.
Simone: Yes, you have to get the mask. You gotta rock someday when you play this [Denver] Nuggets in the mask and the costume and all.
Williams: I have to do this You see, if I do that and we lose, I feel like an idiot.
Simone: Sometimes you have to take the risk. Life is about risks, you know?
Williams: Life is about risks, you know, you can’t be afraid of that, right?
Simone: Always. So again bleeding into my next question. I know you went down the list of whether your teammates were Marvel characters last year, but if you could give any of your teammates nicknames, what would they be? They don’t even have to be superheroes. Like I’m wondering if you’ve thought about it. Even I am Udoka. All the nicknames you have planned for the boys throughout the season.
Williams: Oh, any nicknames? Oh that’s a great question. I’m really thinking about that now. I did not. But this is my next development. I’ll actually think of all the nicknames that could possibly fly… Next time we chat I’ve got it for you.
Simone: I’ll write that down, I’ll remember that. And then, last question I have for you. You’ve been in the league for a few years now. Obviously playoff runs, all that. Is there anyone in the NBA that you most enjoy playing against?
Williams: Oh. I feel like I love playing Giannis [Antetokounmpo], just because he brings that competitive edge every night. Probably my favorite player to protect, my favorite player to play against just because, as much as he’s a nice guy off the pitch, he never had the time to spend time with him. I’ve heard a lot of great things. But on the pitch he’s so focused on winning and those are the guys I respect the most in the league.
Simone: I have you. Yes. Well that was all the questions I had. I also wanted to say that I really appreciate your tweet yesterday. I thought it was funny that you called JT [Jayson Tatum] for the 75-pounder. I found that entertaining, so. But yeah, that’s all I wrote down for you today. I appreciate you taking the time.
Williams: Thank you for having me, thank you for speaking to me. I have to make sure JT is strong for next season. You know I have to call him.
Simone: Sure sure. I will also wait for these nicknames. I appreciate it. Many Thanks.
Williams: OK sounds good. Good. We talk about this later.
Discussion with the Director of Trading Cards
In addition to my discussion with Williams, I had the opportunity to speak with Bob Means, eBay’s director of trading cards. Since The Bubble in 2020, basketball cards have dominated the market.
“When the NBA bubble started in July 2020, an average of 4 basketball trading cards were being sold per minute on eBay,” Means said. “In 2020, basketball trading cards became the most popular sports cards on eBay, with sales increasing more than 676% compared to 2019. But basketball trading cards have maintained a strong presence on the eBay platform for the last 18+ years almost 50 tickets sold on the online marketplace every day. “
Her popularity led to unfathomable growth.
“What was once unconventional for younger generations is now commonplace,” Means explained. “They don’t just collect, they view collectibles as long-term investments. 4 million more sports, trading card games and non-sports trading cards were sold in 2020 compared to 2019. Basketball tickets alone grew 373% in 2020. As 2021 began to see the world returning to some semblance of normality, interest in trading cards has not waned.”
And if you’ve been wondering what the director’s favorite trading card cards are, well, it all comes down to personal preference.
“The community of sports collectors and trading card enthusiasts is full of passionate and loyal fans. And I’ve been a sports fan and collector myself for many years,” Means said. “I’m from the Bay Area so my collection is mostly centered around my home teams – the San Francisco 49ers, the Golden State Warriors and of course the San Francisco Giants. My current favorite card in my collection is my Aaron Miller Enlightened Tutor Judge promo card and I was fortunate enough to have Aaron autograph it recently. I’m also currently looking for a 52 Topps Willie Mays card in the eBay vault; I would like to add the card to my collection. To see such a boom in recent years really excites me.”
Thanks again eBay for setting all this up!