A career cut short: Jay williams

Lets imagine you were the high school golden recruit, top college point guard, and an NBA career in the future.  You achieve about every accolade you can in the respective leagues.   Your career eludes those “what-if” labels, bad attitude, and even mentioned as a tremendous person.  The success this sport brings provides chances of meeting those childhood role models.  The tagline “cream of the crop” doesn’t fit you, but prototype does.  The skills, work ethic, smarts, and leadership are just SOME traits people talk about.  Life is complete, your identity is set in stone, but one decision changes this.  Not an act of crime, stupidity, civil misdoing, but a simple decision.  The type of decision like wearing a seat belt, riding a bike instead of walking, or drinking H2O rather than that energy drink.  The consequences of these actions cause a minor life ripple and create what we identify as our life path.

This scenario frequently occurs in the lives of everyday people.  Business workers, teachers, military personnel, janitors, and basketball players.  I want to focus a player in particular Jay Williams.  I’m not talking about Jayson Williams the suspect murderer in a 2000’s murder case, but he also knows the misfortunes of a bad choice.  I’m talking about the college player of the year Jay Williams and member of Chicago Bulls.

Seven days after my twelfth birthday I heard the news every Bulls hated.  June 19th, 2003 Jay Williams was involved in a Motorcycle accident.   The news hit me hard at the time, I was twelve and I idolized every point guard in the NBA.  I received the Jay Williams bobble head and rookie card seven days prior to the news headline.  Youth and Ignorance led me to researching the possible upcoming free agents and point guard prospects.  I was simply scared for the Bulls.  Not a fear of how we going to get Jay back, but whose the number two point guard.  (at the time the Bulls needed more than a point guard)  The moment I heard his career is in jeopardy, I jumped of the Jay Williams bandwagon.  How bad does that sound?  Sure, I’m twelve years old but when a player is facing the toughest challenge in his life I quit on him.  His shortened career provided me with excitement, memories, and hope for my Chicago Bulls.

I escaped my problems by watching his games.  His escape was playing and it vanished right underneath him.  I wasn’t sympathetic nor being a true fan.  What could I do anyways I wasn’t a doctor, trainer, nor even good at seventh grade science at the time.   But I could have offered support either through writing him, praying, or learning about what I could do.

Jay Williams chose to rode a motorcycle as we choose our daily activities everyday.  Tragedy struck him, but it didn’t stop him.  We hear of stories of injuries derailing careers but also lives.  Athletes turning to drugs, alcohol, and similar products to escape their identity.  Being an athlete or star is the main identity for some of these athletes.  The same type of identity is felt in YOUR life, just think what your passion is  and imagine it being out of reach. What occurs when an artist messes up their hand, a business man loses his sight, or a mom loses their child.  Basketball may be a game to some but it was Jay Williams identity at the time and it never occurred to me until I September 20th, 2011.

I never met him, seen him in person, or watched him live. On T.V, newspapers, and shows he seemed like a model civilian. He faced his struggles throughout the process and every night he replays that night.  Being the best player was his identity and job.  No matter the success, fame, or popularity you possess if can simply vanish.  Vanish in a week, overnight, or a year ask Lindsay Lohan, Darius Miles, or Len Bias.  The “what-if” tagline relates to ONE specific field.  Labeling his Basketball career a “what-if” is fine, but never his life.  We must remember that his LIFE is still in production, it didn’t end with popping that clutch.

Now as a 20 year-old reflecting on this event I proudly label him the prototype person.  The sport community will continue focusing on the next prototype point guard, tragedy story, or college player of the year.  However, the game will never forget what Jay Williams gave us in his short career and what he did at the college level.   His statistics allow us to remember his game dominance, his story provides a tragedy, but the 2nhalfsteps he makes everyday from that tragedy shows us the real person behind that jersey.  The last tidbit I want to stress live your life to the fullest and never regret the choices you make.  This quote is beyond overused but its that true.  Our choices are the only thing in life we have and can control.  Jay may regret getting on that bike, but we know he is making the most of his life.  So go hard, try your best, take a risk because this life is all we have.


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