Some NBA players grew up with tragedy all around them. Sometimes, those tragedies follow them into their adult lives and into their careers.
This is what happened to former New Jersey Nets All-Star, Jayson Williams.
Williams was born on February 22, 1968, in New York City. He and his family moved down to Ritter, South Carolina when he was young.
Williams is biracial, with an African-American father and a white mother. He grew up with two sisters and a brother.
Williams has said that his parents were loving, but as you will soon find out, there was a lot they've done that may have influenced Williams later in life.
As a child, Williams witnessed his father shoot three different people. None of them died, but at least one was struck in the leg.
The reason for this shooting incident was, according to Williams, as a child, a man broke a pool still over his back and his father retaliated by shooting the man in the leg.
Apparently, no legal troubles came from this because as Williams said, “in the rural south, 50 years ago, you took care of business that way you took care of business.”
This incident would not be the last that involved guns for Jayson Williams when he was a child. This time, it would happen in his home.
One night, Williams' father was “somewhere he wasn't supposed to be” and his mother had enough of it, so she grabbed a gun.
According to Williams, while his father was taking a shower, his mother shot into the closed bathroom door three times.
This was just to scare him, and it worked because Williams' father jumped out the bathroom window.
Williams' father would be okay as nothing else came of that situation, and his family would be okay until tragedy struck his sisters.
When Williams was 13, he discovered his older sister, Linda, stabbed and severely beaten in her apartment.
“A guy named Sergio had stabbed her 17 times and beat her over her face with a hammer,” Williams said about the attack.
His sister would survive the attack, but she would never be the same.
“We had to take all the mirrors out of the house because she was deformed in her face because he broke the hammer over her face by hitting her so many times,” Williams explained.
Linda's attacker was a neighborhood junkie. He stabbed and beat her to steal her money.
Even though Linda survived the attack, more tragedy would soon hit. Because of the massive blood loss, Linda had to get a blood transfusion. From this, Linda would contract AIDS.
This turned Linda to drugs to try to cope with her pain. Williams' other sister, Laura, wanted to comfort Linda in any way she could.
This wanting to comfort led Laura to start using drugs along with Linda, so she wouldn't be alone.
The sisters would share needles and because of this, Laura also contracted AIDS.
Both of Jayson Williams' sisters would pass away from their illnesses.
Williams' had a third sister, who would also suffer a horrific fate.
“Then, some years later, my third sister’s husband was having a bad day and came home drunk, shot her in the face and killed her and then he killed himself,” Williams said.
With all this tragedy going around, Williams somehow managed to become a star player on his high school basketball team.
After high school, Williams would enroll at St. John's University to play college ball, but it wouldn't be easy.
Williams would adopt his oldest sister, Linda's two children. Williams' had this to say about the balancing act of going to school, playing basketball, and being a new father:
“I had like an 11-year-old and like a seven-year-old. I had to wake up every morning from Jamaica Queens and drive my son to Manhattan and then beat the traffic back. Then wake my daughter up and bring her to school. After that, go back to Manhattan, pick my son up, then pick my daughter up and bring them to practice at St. John’s.”
These days would be tough for not only Williams, but for his newly adopted children. Williams explained how his kids would sit through the four-to-five hours of practices, waiting for him to finish:
“After that, I would have to help them with their homework, do my homework. Feed ’em, bathe ’em, and then still try to do what an 18-year-old does playing for one of the most famous universities in the world.”
This situation may have been difficult for Williams, but it's also one of the proudest moments of his life:
“The only accolade I give myself in my whole life is that my kids only missed five days of school and I got my degree in four years.”
Williams' hard work and dedication would pay off because, in the 1990 NBA Draft, Williams would be selected 21st by the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns would trade the draft rights of Williams to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Williams would play two years in Philadelphia as a backup before getting traded to the New Jersey Nets.
While in Philadelphia, in 1992, Williams was out at a Chicago bar with his teammate, Charles Barkley.
A disgruntled fan attacked Barkley with a knife, and Williams would come to his teammate's defense:
“We were in a bar in Chicago, and somebody tried to pull a knife out,” Williams said. “Somebody did pull a knife out on Charles Barkley when we were in the bar, and I hit him over the head with a mug. The guy got arrested and we went on from there… we shouldn’t have been there.”
Two years later, in 1994, Williams would have another run-in with the law, this time, guns would be involved.
Williams was accused of firing a semiautomatic weapon into the parking lot at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey.
After four years of not playing much in New Jersey, in 1996-97, Williams would earn a starting spot. He'd average 13.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game.
The next season, Williams would become an All-Star, averaging 12.9 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.
Williams' career was starting to take off, but an unfortunate injury next year would end his career.
April 1, 1999, in a game against the Atlanta Hawks, Williams collided with teammate Stephon Marbury, which resulted in a broken leg.
Williams sat out the entire 1999–2000 season before officially retiring from the NBA on June 28, 2000.
February 14, 2002
This night, the lives of two people would be changed forever.
Former NBA player, Jayson Williams, was out with his family and a travel team he was associated with. They were watching the Harlem Globetrotters.
After the game, Williams and members of the travel team were at a restaurant, eating dinner. Williams then invited the players from the travel team back to his house.
The owner of the restaurant did Williams a favor by calling a limousine service to come to pick up the players to take back to his home.
This decision by the restaurant owner, unknowingly to him, would be fateful.
The limo driver, a man named Costas (Gus) Christofi, picked up the players of the travel team. He'd follow Williams, who was driving his car, back to Williams' home.
At the home, Williams was drinking and showing off his gun collection to his guests. Williams was holding a shotgun and showing it off when the gun went off.
The bullet struck Christofi in the chest, killing him instantly. What happened next is bizarre.
Williams stripped naked and ran outside to his swimming pool. He jumped in to wash off any blood that had gotten on him.
After getting out of the pool, Williams then wiped the shotgun’s stock and put it in Christofi’s hands to make it appear that Christofi committed suicide.
Williams' adopted brother ended up calling 9-1-1 and reported Christofi's shooting as a suicide.
The police would show up and take Williams in for questioning. The police discovered Williams' blood-alcohol level greater than .10, making him intoxicated under N.J. law.
Following an autopsy and Williams' arrest, he was released on $250,000 bail.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim Williams had this to say about the terrible incident:
“There is nothing I can do or say to bring Mr. Christofi back. If there was, I would do it. Terrible accident and the way I acted after the accident was being a coward. That bothers me… the cover-up was selfishness… me trying to protect myself.”
The trial would take eight years to be resolved, and Williams would be acquitted of aggravated manslaughter.
Williams would be convicted on four counts of covering up the shooting, and he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on January 11, 2010.
He received a five-year prison sentence and served 27 months before getting released in April 2012.
At his sentencing hearing, Williams apologized to Christofi’s family and said, “There’s not a day I wake up and I don’t feel sorry for what I did to Mr. Christofi.”
Before finally being convicted in the case for the accidental shooting, Williams found himself in trouble with the law on a few other occasions.
On April 27, 2009, a female friend of Williams called the police because Williams was acting suicidal.
Once the police arrived, Williams appeared drunk and agitated. After Williams resisted attempts to be hospitalized, the police tasered him.
After taking Williams to the hospital, the police found empty bottles of prescription drugs several suicide notes.
Then, only a month later, Williams would get in an altercation at a bar in Raleigh, North Carolina.
He allegedly punched a man in the face and was charged with simple assault. The charges were later dropped.
Since his release from prison, Williams dealt with alcoholism that got so severe that he entered a rehab center. Williams spent 30 days in rehab before never leaving.
“I’ve quit trying to protect myself. I just try to live right and let the pieces fall where they may,” Williams said about his alcoholism. “That’s my only job, to be sober… I don’t know what happened yesterday. I know I was sober. I damn sure don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Jayson Williams appears to be doing better with his life recently. He's often giving interviews about his situation in hopes to help other people who may be dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.
We all hope that Williams can stay on track and continue to live a peaceful life, despite his tragic accident.