MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bob Williams was a member of the Minneapolis Lakers in the mid-1950s.

The 6-foot-6-inch Floridian remembers his first day in Minneapolis. He was picked up at the airport by Sid Hartman.

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“It was just a beautiful city,” Williams said.

His playing career did not last long, but Williams still had a major impact on a storied franchise.

He was the first African American to play for the Lakers. And he got to meet one of the most famous Lakers of all time Wednesday.

Before tipoff, Williams and his wife of 66 years, Marietta, spent some time with Kobe Bryant.

Williams stayed a fan of the Lakers franchise even after they left Minneapolis for Los Angeles. Bryant quickly became one of his favorite players to watch — which made this one-on-one time so special.

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“It was awesome for me to talk to him even though I was 40 years before him,” Williams said. “He said it was an honor to meet me.”

After Williams’ playing career was over, he and Marietta made the Twin Cities their home. They raised their five children here.

He cheers for the Timberwolves, unless they are playing the Lakers.

“Once a Laker, you are always a Laker,” he said.

After his basketball career, Williams co-founded the Fellowship for Christian Athletes in Minnesota.

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He has also been heavily involved in the Boys and Girls Club, as well as other organizations over the years.

John Lauritsen