(CBS Local)– Former NBA All-Star Jayson Williams has experienced extreme highs and painful lows in his life.
The St. John’s graduate was a 1st round pick in 1990, played in the 1998 NBA All-Star game at Madison Square Garden, and was one of the big big men in the league. But, Williams’ life changed forever in February 2002 when he shot and killed his limo driver in New Jersey. Williams ended up serving 27 months in prison and is now a recovery advocate and the founder of a recovery program called Rebound at Futures Recovery Health Care in Florida.
Williams says he is working every day to improve his life and the lives of others around him.
“I have a disease that tells me I don’t have a disease in being an alcoholic,” said Williams in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “I have to wear myself out every day. I’m doing outdoor adventure therapy at Rebound. Through the grace of God, I finally found something I’m really good at. I’m great at helping people beat their addiction. It’s a tough business, but a rewarding business. The hardest part is February 13 when Mr. Christofi accidentally lost his life by my recklessness and the stuff that I did to be a coward that day. That is the roughest thing. Alcohol and ambien was my thing. I have to work on me dealing with my past.”
In 2010, Williams pleaded guilty to assault in the accidental shooting of his limo driver. While Williams doesn’t like talking much about his basketball days and his life before the incident, playing for St. John’s and head coach Lou Carnesecca was one of the great joys of his life.
“Chris Mullin may have been a great player, but I’m Coach Carnesecca’s favorite,” said Williams. “I call Coach Carnesecca at least three times a week. His ability to deal with the parents is the biggest accolade you can give him. When I went to college, I had two children already. I had to adopt my sister’s kids. I had to get up and bring my son to school and my daughter to school. I had to go to school, pick them up, go to practice, and do my homework. No one was helping me. Coach Carnesecca never gave me slack and told me to bring the kids to practice. I applaud him for that.”
Another one of Williams’ favorite basketball memories is playing in the 1998 NBA All-Star game at Madison Square Garden. He was teammates with Michael Jordan and got to play against Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
“I remember all the work leading up to it. I was the hardest working guy out there,” said Williams. “I took that as such an honor. I was representing as a center and playing the position at 6’9 with all these great centers back then. Even if you didn’t like the Nets and you were from New York, you were yelling. That was awesome.”