Ex-NY Knick Williams dies of colon cancer

ray-williamsRay Williams, a former Mount Vernon basketball star who went on to play for the New York Knicks, died Friday of colon cancer; He was 58.

According to his wife Linda, he suffered a stroke while undergoing treatment for late-stage colon cancer. Williams died at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Williams’ life story was perhaps more memorable than his NBA career.

He sprung into the spotlight — after graduating from Mount Vernon High School – during a 10-year professional run with six teams, including the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Williams was drafted 10th overall out of Minnesota in 1977 by theKnicks, playing two stints with the team. He signed with the Nets as a free agent in 1981 and then was traded to the Kansas City Kings before he was traded back to the Knicks in 1983.

He then played for Boston, Atlanta and San Antonio before being traded to the Nets, where he finished his career after the 1986-87 season.

Williams reached the NBA finals back in 1985 with the Boston Celtics.

When he retired in 1987, Williams battled bankruptcy following a slew of bad investments, according to published reports, eventually finding himself homeless, sleeping in old vehicles in Pompano Beach, Fla., for more than a year.

To get back on his feet, former teammates from the Boston Celtics supplied him with cash. The then-mayor of Mount Vernon, Clinton Young, hired him as his assistant and he soon remarried.

Funeral services are slated for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Allen Memorial Church in Mount Vernon, after a wake Tuesday night that saw actor Denzel Washington among the hundreds of mourners.

“Ray was a tremendous athlete, a tremendous person,” said Lowes Moore, a former NBA player and current executive director of Mount Vernon’s Boys and Girls Club. “Some people you call friends, some people you call family. Ray was family.”

“Mount Vernon meant the world to him,” said Jerald Hoover, a documentarian who was among the mourners at Tuesday night’s wake.

“Life went by too quickly for Williams, who wasn’t prepared for what came after the NBA,” said William Earl Tatum, who grew up together with Williams in Mount Vernon.

“I don’t think a lot of us knew where our dreams were heading,” Tatum said.

Williams averaged scoring double figures in 6 of his NBA seasons. He averaged career high 20.9 ppg for the NY Knicks during the 1979-80 NBA season.

He holds career averages of 15.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 5.6 apg, appearing in 655 NBA games, starting in 240 of them.


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