I am one of the 23 or so living New Jersey Nets fans and, before the team’s brief period of actually being somewhat relevant under the leadership of Jason Kidd, my favorite player was Jayson Williams.
Ironically, I also root for a college team that has long been forgotten by most of the country: the St. John’s Red Storm. Back in the days before political correctness caused them to adopt that stupid-assed nickname, Williams also played for the St. John’s Redmen.
He was a nonentity for the Philadelphia 76ers for a while, then came to the Nets and mastered the art of rebounding. Williams was never particularly skilled either offensively or defensively, but he went after every rebound with ferocious effort and was, quite simply, a likeable guy.
His NBA career ended in a nasty collision with then-Nets point guard Stephon Marbury, which left the two of them writhing in pain on the floor of the Continental Airlines Arena (now the IZOD Center — sickening, I know). Williams got the worst of the impact, suffering injuries that doctors likened to those from a motorcycle crash. He tried to come back about a year-and-a-half later, but he just didn’t have the strength or explosiveness.
So one of the guys who was always among the more personable in the NBA did the next-best thing: He started working on NBC’s basketball telecasts. That came to a crashing halt, as well, but not due to injury — due to blatant stupidity.
For anyone who doesn’t remember the details of the case, Williams was playing around with a gun in his house and accidentally shot and killed the limo driver who had driven him and a few other people home. Then he tried to cover it up, making matters worse.
On the one hand, there’s a big difference to me between deliberately pulling the trigger and an accident. But on the other hand, the driver’s friends and family lost a loved one due to complete idiocy, and Williams deserves whatever happens to him in the retrial, as much as I hate saying that about a guy whom I’ve always been a huge fan of.
Unfortunately, things only seem to be getting worse. Williams’ wife filed for divorce, and both that case and the retrial of the limo-driver case are due to start soon, and everything must have gotten to the guy. He was removed from a Manhattan hotel room by police and is being held for observation after being described as suicidal.
I know Williams is far from perfect and has done several more bone-headed things that I didn’t even bother to touch upon, but it’s still sad to see someone whom I was such a huge fan of, and whom I believe is a good person deep down, become such a mess. I’m still rooting for him but, rather than rooting for him to grab a rebound, I’m rooting for him to somehow turn his life around. I am not, however, rooting for him to be exonerated in the limo-driver case. As I said, he deserves whatever he gets in that case.
This sucks. Speedy recovery, No. 55.