used to be on top of the world. With a national championship in tow, a
Wooden Award under his belt and a brand new life as a can’t miss NBA
prospect, Williams was at the top of his game.
But Jason or Jay (whichever term you prefer) made one bad decision.
Knowing he shouldn’t have a motorcycle according to his NBA contract,
Williams ignored the rules. And frankly physically and professionally,
it cost him.
Williams crashed his recently purchased motorcycle into a light pole in
Chicago, fracturing his pelvis and tearing knee ligaments and suffering
nerve damage in his left leg. The former Duke guard was hospitalized
for nearly four months.
Despite his positive attitude, Williams would give the $3 million
buyout figure back to the Chicago Bulls for the opportunity to be that
rising NBA superstar.
Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow and Pittsburg Steelers
quarterback Ben Roethlisberger both crashed their respective
motorcycles after repeated warnings not to ride. But Williams’ case was
more severe and life threatening.
Another former Duke guard, with two national championships, Bobby
Hurley was involved in a horrible automobile collision during his
rookie season. All become the incoming traffic didn’t turn their lights
on. Hurley, who suffered through an extended hospital stay, made a
valiant comeback to return to the NBA.
In Williams’ case, it’s not that easy.
He almost died. His left leg was almost amputated. He was told he may
never walk again. Three-and-a-half years later, Williams is on the
brink of signing back into the NBA.
According to an Associated Press release, Williams signed a
non-guaranteed contract, giving him the right to attend training camp
and try out for the team. Though it wasn’t the high priced deal he
signed after being selected second overall by the Bulls, it was
“I would love for it to happen in [New Jersey],” Williams, who grew up
25 miles from the Nets’ arena, said in an AP report. “I pray to God it
does. But if it doesn’t, I'll have to go from there.”
What a breath of fresh air. In the day of professional athletes when
holdouts are daily occurrences and the “get paid attitude” is
prevalent, Williams’ recovery becomes so inspiring. After
devoting his life to his recuperation, Williams inches closer to his
goal of returning to the NBA.
“When I first came [to New Jersey] a month and a half ago, we did the
full-court sprint and I ran it in a 3.5 (seconds),” Williams said. “Two
weeks ago, we ran it again and I was at a 2.85. So I’ve gotten a lot,
It’s weird, though, because sometimes it’ll kind of level off a little
bit and then I’ll have a big jump,” he added. “I keep getting better. I
don't know how to explain it, I keep working hard and hopefully it will
continue to pay off.”
In order to combat his regressed athleticism, Williams has studied the
game’s mental component. Because he couldn’t run, he concentrated on
crisp passing and the ability to consistently shoot 3’s.
“I think there are a lot of things in my game that a lot of people
don’t realize,” Williams said. “Over the past 2½, three years I
really found the passes, so I can still (pass) the ball and make
everyone around me look great, too. My jump shot has gotten a lot
better. I just have to keep working hard.”
Whether he makes the Nets or not, working hard is what Williams will
continue to do. With Jason Kidd and rookie Marcus Williams lined up at
point guard, the 2002 AP Player of the Year has an uphill battle to
climb. Williams has been working out the Nets’ facility for the past
No one disputes that Williams is a shadow his former self. The repeated
operations have drained his athletic abilities, which have made general
managers weary. But Nets GM Rod Thorn decided to give Williams at least
“Remarkable young man to get to this point,” Thorn said earlier in the
week according to an AP report. “Nobody outworks him. He’s got a
tremendous attitude. He’s a guy that everybody roots for, the kind of
person that he is. He believes he’ll make it back. And we’re certainly
hopeful that he will, too.”
Count me in as another guy that can’t help but root for Williams.
Making an NBA roster isn’t what the former Chicago Bulls’ guard had in
mind three years after being selected second overall, but it’s a start.
He may not be on top of the world, but at least he’s in it.