Jayson Williams is one of those NBA players who found life tough after success when he went to prison. Williams made headlines when he served prison time in the accidental death of his limousine driver back in 2002. For other reasons, Williams found life difficult well before his NBA days. It’s hard to imagine anyone going through what Williams endured in his younger days, but he still managed to find a way to become a top-notch father.
Jayson Williams and the limousine incident
A few years after Jayson Williams retired after a nine-year NBA career, playing mostly with the New Jersey Nets, he was back in the news. On Feb. 14, 2002, Williams was giving a tour of his mansion to some of his friends. The group was driven by limo back to the house and Williams was showing off his gun collection, according to ESPN. Williams admitted he failed the check the safety mechanism of one of the guns that went off and killed Costas Christofi, the 55-year-old limo driver.
Eight years after a dragged-out court trial with numerous delays, Williams was sentenced to five years in prison. He was eligible for parole in 18 months. He was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter but was convicted on four counts of trying to cover up the shooting. Williams served 18 months and then served another eight months on a driving-under-the-influence charge.
During an interview on 60 Minutes in 2016, Williams called himself a coward. “(There is) nothing I can do or say to bring Mr. Christofi back. If there was I would do it,” Williams said. “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.”
Williams had gone through hell in his teen years
Well before the tragic death of Costas Christofi, Jayson Williams had suffered tremendously himself. Even though he’s battled his way to sobriety since his playing days, he suffered many challenges in his younger years. When he was 13 years old, his older sister Linda was mugged and stabbed multiple times by a neighborhood junkie. She survived the attack, but later died at 15 when she contracted AIDS through blood transfusions stemming from the incident.
“A guy named Sergio had stabbed her 17 times and beat her over her face with a hammer,” Williams said in a 2019 interview with DJ Vlad. “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 then lost his other sister. And then another.
“My second sister, Sissy, she started trying to help my sister, soothe her, and started doing drugs with my sister, who got hooked on heroin before all the painkillers they were giving her,” he said. “They both started using drugs intravenously and both my sisters caught the AIDS virus. I lost both my sisters. 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 adopted his sisters’ kids while trying to make ends meet
Jayson Williams was a basketball star in high school and went on to play college ball at St. John’s. While doing so, he also had adopted his sisters’ children and had to make sure they were getting their education as well. “Now that I think about it, it wasn’t easy, but back then it was the right thing to do,” Williams told DJ Vlad in a 2019 interview.
Williams was a kid of his own who had just signed with St. John’s and he found himself with two young children. “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.”
Williams said his kids would sit through the four-to-five hours of practice. “After that, I would have to help them with their homework, do my homework,” Williams said. “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.” Williams wasn’t bragging, but he was proud. “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.”