AFTER a promising start to his NBA career, a horror motorcycle accident derailed the career of a former first-round draft pick.
Jay Williams, now 42, was supposed to be one of the next big stars in the NBA.
Originally from New Jersey, Williams went on to star for Duke from 1999-2002.
After winning an NCAA Championship and being named the National College Player of the Year during his time with the Blue Devils, Williams entered the 2002 NBA Draft.
Williams wound up being selected second overall by the Chicago Bulls.
And it didn’t take the point guard long to nail down a starting spot for Bill Cartwright’s Bulls.
Williams started 54 of 75 games as a rookie, averaging 9.5 points, 4.7 assists, and 2.6 rebounds.
He wound up being named an NBA All-Rookie Second-Teamer.
However, Williams’ life forever changed that following offseason.
On June 19, 2003, Williams crashed his Yamaha R6 motorcycle into a utility pole in Chicago.
Without a helmet on, he flew “50, 60 miles an hour” after he accidentally wheelied the bile, as per his interview with The New York Times.
“As I look up, I see a utility pole, and I couldn’t turn the bike and get out of the way,” Williams explained.
After hitting the utility pole “with the left side of his body,” he was left without feeling from the waist down, or on his left-hand side.
Williams suffered a severed artery in his left leg, a cracked sacrum, a dislocated knee, and a severed nerve among other injuries, as per Fox News.
Despite a brief preseason stint with the New Jersey Nets in 2006, Williams’ NBA career was over.
He attempted another comeback with the Austin Toros of the NBA G League in 2006, before this too was ended abruptly by a torn hamstring and pulled groin.
Ultimately, the trauma he had suffered led him down a dark path as he became addicted to painkillers and later attempted to commit suicide.
“Eventually what OxyContin helped me with was just mentally facing people,” Williams explained.
“Still to this day, there’s not one day that goes by where somebody doesn’t say to me, ‘Oh yeah, you’re that guy, you threw away your career in a wreck right?’ or fans are like, ‘Ah man you killed us man, you killed us Bulls fans.’
“So people reminded me of the worst day of my life and OxyContin for me throughout that time was a way for me to escape that–- numb them out and blur the conversation.”
Thankfully, Williams was able to battle through his demons, overcoming his addiction before embarking on a promising new career.
Williams joined ESPN as an analyst in 2008 and hasn’t looked back since.
He has gone on to become one of the most popular figures on the network, appearing regularly on the likes of Get Up and First Take as well as NBA Countdown.
In 2016, Williams also released his memoir: Life Is Not An Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention.