Jason Williams’ Story Inspiring

by Eric Gilmore

Jason Williams 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 intrinsically rewarding.

“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, lot faster.

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 seven weeks.

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 a chance.

“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.

Eric Gilmore