|ESPN.com: Skateboarding||[Print without images]|
|Neen Williams on the night Deathwish turned him pro.|
Chicago-born Neen Williams received an increasing amount of exposure in 2011, culminating in an impressive part in Shake Junt's "Chickenbonenowison" video, which highlighted his famously massive heelflips and liquid style.
Not coincidentally, in December, Deathwish -- the board company owned by Jim Greco and Erik Ellington under the Baker Boys Distribution label -- decided to turn Williams pro.
During this conversation Williams was sitting out a skate session somewhere in Los Angeles. Throughout this discussion he would often punctuate his answers with exuberant "woos" and long, exultant "yeaaaaaahs" as his colleagues landed various tricks.
ESPN.com: Congratulations on turning pro for Deathwish. Could you describe the moment you found out?
Williams: Oh, it was amazing. I just went down there. My roommate's name is Erik Hamamoto, he's a DJ. So he was going down to the bar to play some music and just chill. And it was also my birthday that Monday. So they called a bunch of people to celebrate my birthday. [Jim] Greco was there. I just thought, "Oh, it's my birthday. That's why he's here." But actually he was there to bless me with a board. It was crazy. I couldn't even explain the feeling. I was like, "What?" I thought it was a joke. I thought it was just something for my wall. Like, "There you go, bro. A board with your name on it. Put it on your wall."
You had no idea you were turning pro?
None whatsoever. I was just chilling. And they surprised me with it. I didn't even know. It was crazy. I was super hyped.
A lot of people have the philosophy that you don't ask to turn to pro. Had you ever asked to turn pro?
Nah. I just skate for fun. I just skate with my friends. That's what I like to do. It was a random, crazy experience. I never really expected that to come that soon.
|Frontside boardslide from Williams.|
Does it help when you're talking to young women to say, "Hey, I am a pro skater"? You don't have to answer that.
What's up? Sorry. This bank we're skating is on a highway. So I can't hear you when all these cars pass by. What was it?
Does it help with girls to able to say, "I am a pro skater"?
I don't know. I haven't tried it yet. But it definitely makes you feel more official. Not just, "Oh, I skateboard." And people say, "That's how you live?" Just getting on the whole Baker Boys family, Deathwish and Shake Junt, that was pressure. But other than that, it's just a nice feeling. They're dope to hang around with and dope to skate with. Family, you know? They're awesome. Basically it's the same as I have always been. Skate. Have fun. Get things done, you know?
Have your parents been more supportive since you turned pro?
They're really happy and proud. They're from Chicago, from a pretty rough area. They don't really know about skating. But they appreciate it. They're hyped.
Do they like the name Deathwish?
My mom's kind of, she likes it. But she's like any other mom. Like, "Deathwish? I don't know about that. You better be careful."
Are you having fun choosing graphics for your boards?
We have in-house artists and they're super good. I'll tell them if I have any ideas. It's pretty nice. The next graphic is some random psychedelic graphic. It's going to take some time.
Now that you've turned pro, are you still driving the giant van you purchased a couple of years ago?
I'm still driving the van. It's my weapon of choice, I guess. I bought it off this man in one of the towns out here. I just looked online and searched around and called a couple people, and these people sounded like they knew what they were talking about. I've had it for two years now, so it's been pretty good so far. I was just thinking it would be tight to have a van. When I got it, I was living at a house where there'd be five of us all living there. So I was thinking it would be good to have a van so we could all pack in there. It's kind of like the tour feel.
Is it fuel efficient?
It's pretty expensive. I don't really drive it too much. But I'll still take it to skateparks from time to time. I was thinking it would be tight. But it turned out that paying gas was so gnarly that it was almost not the best idea.
You're becoming increasingly well known for your "ninja style" flips, calling to mind vintage Josh Kalis 360 flips. When did that technique start?
I don't know. That is just how it happens. Just to get the board over and to flip correctly you have to kind of kick it hard. It's kind of vintage skating. I have been skating forever.
You're also known for having given fellow Deathwish pro Antwuan Dixon a tattoo on his face.
That was a crazy night.
Were you nervous? I would be nervous giving someone a tattoo -- let alone on someone's face.
Yeah. I didn't want to do it. But he ended up talking me into it. I was like, "All right, bro. Where do you want it?" It wasn't really something I wanted to do because that's your face, man. I haven't given anyone a tattoo in a couple months. It's a fun little activity to do when you are not skating. And I've been drawing forever. All my life. Antwuan definitely knows how to have his fun. But he's an awesome guy too. If you need help, you don't even have to tell him. He'll feel your pain.
What do you miss about Chicago?
I miss some of the skate spots in Chicago. Primarily my family. My skate homies. My skate family. I miss the Italian beef sandwich, Chicago style. It's only four bucks. And it's dripping with au jus or whatever. It's so big, the portions. Out here it's all, like, healthy. It's called a French dip sandwich out here. But there's no beef! And it's like 20 bucks!
When you lived in Chicago, did you ever run into any celebrities?
I've seen Jerry Springer before. I was like, "There goes Jerry Springer." I didn't say what's up to him. He just kept walking.
Having turned pro, you must be glad you've continued to skate all these years. Have you ever come close to quitting skating?
I never wanted to quit skating. It's kind of what I do. It clears my mind. It's basically the best thing. I never wanted to stop.