In an excellent New York Times piece that was published over the weekend, former Duke basketball standout and current ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams recounted his experience dealing with the aftermath of a motorcycle injury that ended his professional basketball career.
It was a powerful story, one that included Williams discussing his feelings at his lowest point, which had him considering suicide.
There was another nugget in there, however, that’s now gaining some national attention, thanks to the way it’s affecting some of Williams’ former teammates he played with while he was a member of the Chicago Bulls during the 2002-03 season.
From Greg Bishop of the Times:
“I didn’t know how to handle it at first,” Williams said. “I didn’t know how to be around it. Guys were on the bench, trying to kick it to girls in the stands, having ball boys run over. I mean, some guys were high.”
Asked to clarify, Williams said: “There were guys smoking weed before games. Guys asking in the middle of the game, ‘Do you smell popcorn?’ ”
He noticed the nervous laughter around the kitchen table. “You think I’m playing,” Williams said. “Can you imagine! Guys are gambling. They’re playing dice in the back of the plane for money. Like, we just lost by 30 tonight! And we’ve got a game tomorrow! It bugged me out.”
Players “smoking weed before games” is a strong statement, and it must have been at least perceived to be true by Williams for him to even broach the subject.
But the fact that he mentioned it at all, and did so without naming names, is leaving his ex-teammates scrambling to explain.
Tyson Chandler, who now plays for the Knicks and earned his first selection to the All-Star team this season, was on that 2002-03 team with Williams. And not surprisingly, he’s not letting that claim from Williams go without a response.
“I don’t know why he would say something like that. I think that’s ridiculous that he would come out and say something. I don’t remember that to be honest with you. And it’s unfortunate that he would make that kind of statement about our game,” Chandler said at the team’s charity bowling event to support Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation.
Other Bulls on that team, including Donyell Marshall and Rick Brunson, similarly took exception to Williams’ assertion.
Williams released a statement Monday essentially saying he was done talking about the issue.
“I gave an honest account of my struggles and observations during a specific time in my life; that was one small element. It was a long time ago and I am not looking to make it a bigger issue,” he said.
The interview Williams gave was so wide-ranging that it might not have even occurred to him at the time the gravity of what he was saying. If he had thought it through a little bit before making those comments, he might have realized how many people were going to be affected by such a serious accusation.