Jayson Williams, who recently attended his first Nets game in more than a dozen years, spoke at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City at a forum called “Prison Reentry: Breaking the Cycle.”
Williams was introduced by Joseph Hayden – his attorney throughout his 2002 arrest, his 2004 manslaughter trial that lasted four months, and years of appeals.
Williams told the crowd of 250+ during his lunchtime address, that he’s a former NBA All-Star basketball player – but a permanent convicted felon.
His speech was quite serious, stressing how even a charismatic, famous, wealthy former athlete wound up living in a hotel for six months after getting out of prison in 2012 – because, he said, no one wanted to rent him an apartment.
The point is that if even Williams struggled upon “reentry” into society, what chance did someone of little means or family support have?
Williams noted that he has made at least 250 speeches about his trials and tribulations, almost all of them getting no media attention.
He suggested that he preferred it that way, and said he was willing to make an exception because of the topic and the awareness the forum would create – other guests included Senator Booker, Governor Christie, and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Williams has on several occasions apologized to the family of limousine driver Costas “Gus” Christofi, who died after Williams recklessly handled a shotgun at the ex-Nets’ Hunterdon County estate in 2002.
Former NBA star also apologized to his own family, and anyone else he let down on that fateful night – especially his father, whose passing he blamed in part on the heartbreak from this tragedy (“I took two lives that day,” Williams said poignantly).
But he also stressed that he was not there for a “pity party,” and that he takes full responsibility for his actions while expressing no bitterness for having to serve 2 1/2 years in prison for this act as well as a DUI in Manhattan (of course, many people to this day consider that amount of time insufficient, given the loss of life).
Williams noted that the shock of returning to freedom was so jarring for him that those early days were “more difficult than any day in prison.”
He also got audible reactions from the crowd on numerous occasions, such as when he stressed that young people get caught up in the tough-guy mentality of “I can do the time” while not considering whether their parents, children, or other loved ones can do the same.
Williams played 9 seasons in the NBA for Philadelphia Sixers and New Jersey Nets. A defensive-minded forward/center made an NBA All-Star team in 1998, when he averaged 13.6 rebounds per game, second in the league.
The same season, Williams lead the NBA in offensive rebounds (443). He holds career NBA averages of 7.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg in 20.6 minutes of playing time. He appeared in 475 NBA games, starting 158.
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