It was one of the NBA’s most discussed tragedies — No. 2 pick of the Chicago Bulls Jay Williams, a college legend and a guy who after one season looked like a rookie with potential at the point, crashed his motorcycle, destroyed his leg and never played again.
Nearly a decade removed from the accident, Williams reflected on it and his life afterward in a powerful piece of writing in the New York Times by Greg Bishop.
To go from national champion at Duke and future face of the Chicago Bulls to a guy who might never walk again, to a guy who had the game he was driven to play taken away from him — and with nobody to blame but himself — would be hard for anyone to live with. And Williams was honest about not wanting to live at some points.
At his lowest point, Williams did more than consider suicide. “I remember lying in my bed,” he said. “And I’m just tired of being here. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I was so afraid to face people. And I didn’t really know who I was. And I didn’t really want anybody to see me. And I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I didn’t want to talk about it.”
Williams glanced at his mother, Althea Williams, as he recounted the story. He continued: “I mean, to the point where I sat there, and I had this pair of scissors in my hand. I just kept going on my wrist. I wasn’t trying to go sideways. I was going vertical. I didn’t want to be here. At all.”
It was his mother that stopped him and it was her that made sure he didn’t go there again. She is still a crucial and close part of his life.
Go read the entire story, a few paragraphs can’t do it justice. As he says, he’s moved on and he doesn’t want pity. Williams got all the way back to the D-League but realized it was not going to go beyond that, his body wouldn’t let it. An adjustment from that would not be easy for anyone.
He works for ESPN as a college analyst and he lives a good life. One different than he imagined, but a good one. As a fan of the game it’s hard not to think about what might have been for him. But it’s hard not to be happy for him that he has found his peace with everything.