Why Is Jay Williams No Longer Working in the ESPN Booth at the NBA Finals?

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Former NBA player Jay Williams visits Build Series at Build Studio on July 24, 2018.

Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns heads back to Phoenix all even at two games apiece. While the teams are beginning to become familiar with one another, there will be a familiar face missing from the broadcast booth. ESPN’s Jay Williams will be away from the NBA Finals the rest of the season.

Jay Williams tests positive for COVID-19

Williams, usually alongside Jalen Rose, Maria Taylor, and Adrian Wojnarowski in the booth, made a stunning announcement via social media Friday, saying he tested positive for the virus despite being fully vaccinated.

“The last couple of days for me have been challenging,” he said in a Twitter video Friday. “But I wanted to be the first to tell you guys that you will not see me at Game 5, Game 6 or a potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals because I have tested positive for COVID. I have received both my shots. I am fully vaccinated. But this is our new normal.” 

Williams said he’s doing “OK” and said he’s taken great precautions against the virus.

“For any of you guys who know my story, my daughter is two-and-a-half years old,” he continued. “She’s immunosuppressed, so my family and I have been overly diligent, hypersensitive to COVID and everything happening, and this has still occurred. This serves as a reminder for me, my family, and hopefully all of you that we have to continue to be as diligent as possible.”

Jay Williams took some heat in late June over a Boston Celtics comment

Williams was in the news last month when he quickly pulled the trigger on a story without doing some homework. He then later said he did not post the embarrassing message on his Twitter account. Williams, through his verified Twitter account, said Ime Udoka, who had just been hired by the Boston Celtics as their new head coach, was the first head coach of color for the team. He is actually the sixth.

In the since-deleted tweet, Williams wrote, Udooka was “the first head coach of color for the @celtics…and even more importantly…he is one talented individual who has paid his dues.”

Even more embarrassing than the tweet was the cover-up. Shortly after the incorrect tweet about the new Celtics coach, he had an excuse for the tweet. “As it related to the Boston Celtics tweet that came from my account a couple of hours ago … I did not post that & my passcode has now been changed,” he wrote.

Williams began his ESPN career in 2003

Williams was the second player selected in the 2002 NBA Draft. The Chicago Bulls selected the guard out of Duke after center Yao Ming was the top pick. As a rookie, he played in 75 games and averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists per game.

A devastating motorcycle accident in June of 2003 ended his playing career. He attempted a comeback but never was able to do so. In 2003, he did some commentating for ESPN which ultimately led to his lengthy career with the network.

Williams will return to ESPN, but not before the NBA Finals are done. In the meantime, he’ll be quarantined in his hotel room for the next 10 days as he stated in his video.

“I just wanted to tell you guys and wanted to say I’m doing OK,” he said. “I will be OK. I’m thankful that I am vaccinated because the symptoms weren’t as bad as they could’ve been. I hope this is a reminder for me and for everybody that we need to continue to be as safe and as careful as possible.”

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