Will Smith took a most complicated character in Richard Williams and transformed the role into an Oscar, but after he slapped comedian Chris Rock during an impromptu walk onto the Dolby Theatre stage that performance was all but forgotten.
You all know what happened by now and can debate your conspiracies of whether it was real or not.
However, we do know that the fallout of Smith’s actions is real and the consequences not excluding legal exposure are also real.
I have known the real Richard Williams for a very long time, and lived with the family when they moved from Compton to South Florida in the mid 1990’s.
So, I have firsthand knowledge of who Richard Williams is and an introspective that not many people can speak of.
When I first met Richard while Venus was just a prodigy and Serena not even thought of as a potential player, we sat on the steps at my Hawthorne apartment and munched on cheese and crackers.
Admittingly, I have not seen the movie nor do I anticipate watching it for reasons that I will not explain in this writing.
The moniker of “King Richard” was created by Mr. Williams as he was referred to by his tennis staff, was a large banner than that hung from the tennis courts at his Palm Beach Gardens Estate in 1996.
Back then he was a Moore cigarette chain smoking tennis coach who wore thigh high Reebok shorts and matching polo shirt.
It was 20 to 30 hour work weeks at either The Breakers tennis courts with rotating hitters who played against Venus and Serena.
His wife at the time Oracene, or Brandy as he referred to her, was a devout Jehovah Witness and guarded mom of Venus and Serena who fancied the music of rock band Green Day.
Richard was always the consummate story teller and opined on civil rights and racism quite candidly.
When I last saw Richard earlier this year, he was far removed from cigarette smoking tennis coach and the elaborate estate he once adored is gone, he now resides in a modernly build home in a gated community in West Palm Beach.
The effect of multiple strokes didn’t prevent him from embracing me with the customary hug we always shared and he was as sound of mind as ever.
His nine year old son Dylan who he affectionally calls Babe occupied most of his time during the visit and we chatted and reflected on moments shared.
After watching the Oscars, I decided to wait a day before reaching out and we spoke briefly this week.
I didn’t bother to ask him about the slap heard around the world, but I did inquire about what he thought of the movie.
“I thought it was great. Will Smith did a wonderful job and made me look better than I am. In fact, Will Smith has done more for me than my family,” Williams said.
That should be what we are reflecting about today, how a man raised two daughters from Compton to the galaxy of celebrity and super star tennis stardom.
Will Smith is responsible for showcasing Richard Williams and his family to the world in a riveting dramatic performance, but he is also the blame for this remarkable man becoming a mere sideshow during a moment when he should have been glorified.