Frank Isola: Walter Berry in attendance at Chris Mullin’s press conference. Also here, Sacramento Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro & former Net Jayson Williams
Jayson Williams RumorsAll NBA Players
Former NBA star turned convicted felon Jayson Williams made an impassioned plea for “another chance” yesterday at a prison re-entry conference organized by Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. Williams, 46, who spent more than two years in prison in connection with the fatal 2002 shooting of his chauffeur and an unrelated drunken driving charge, said his time in prison was hard, but his life after his 2012 release was “more difficult,“ particularly as he attempted to find a permanent place to live. “People who live in these high-rises,“ he said, gesturing to the skylines of Jersey City and Manhattan behind him, ”who once paid a significant amount of money to watch me play, didn’t want me living next door to them.“
What do you still struggle with now? Jayson Williams: I struggle with the loss of lives. The loss of Mr. Christofi and the loss of my father. An hour doesn’t go by that I don’t think about [the accident], think about how can I replay this as to bring back Mr. Christofi. … And not one person died that night, two people died. My dad had never been in the hospital in 70 years. That’s the ripple effect. I can do the time, but can my father do it? No. Can my kids do it? No. … Because of prison I haven’t seen my kids in years.
What was the hardest part about prison for you? Jayson Williams: Claustrophobia. I was never worried about a human being, I was worried about being claustrophobic. At Rikers Island, they lock the door and you hear it. [Makes a loud slamming noise.] And they double lock it. You can’t see out of the windows — they’re barred up, full of dirt and grime and there’s no light that comes through there. It was August and the walls were sweaty, and you’re locked in a cell.
What’s life been like since you’ve been out? Jayson Williams: It’s been a lot more challenging than I thought. I never imagined I’d be leaving the house at 5:30 in the morning and working 18-hour days. And I think I make it more difficult than it has to be at certain times by trying to save the world. Some days I just save the community, some days I just have to wake up and save myself. But it has to be the other way around. I never understood it on the airplane when people said, ‘Put on your own oxygen mask first,’ and I was like, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to put it on your parents or your kids first?’ You gotta get healthy first before you can truly help somebody.
(Jayson) Williams is back on his size-16 feet in New York, ready to share the lessons he has learned since that fateful day in 2002. He knows some might hesitate to trust a convicted felon or doubt he’s a changed man. But Williams says he doesn’t ask people to believe him. Since he’s been out of prison, Williams spends much of his time speaking to groups about his story. “Just watch me,” he says. “Just watch my actions.” Williams is busier than he could have imagined so soon after being back on this side of the barbed wire. He is the vice president of Gourmet Services International and partnering with Loud Digital Network to host his own online channel. His calendar is filled with speaking engagements and charity events, some several hours away. And his cell phone rings constantly with more requests for his time. “I can’t understand when people go to jail and come back out and don’t wanna tell nobody,” Williams says. “Man, tell somebody how bad this thing is so they don’t have to go there.”
Since his release in April, his days have been filled with AA meetings, Bible studies (he calls Curtis Martin a spiritual adviser), and regular visits to St. Lucy’s shelter and the Franciska Residence, two housing facilities for HIV/AIDS patients in Jersey City. In other words, he’s in the healing business, though he’s reluctant to give himself that much credit. “About 95 percent of the time I wake up and want to save the world,” says the former Nets center. “I might only save my community in the end. But I can see myself helping people, running a shelter, doing what I’m doing right now — being the best Christian that I can be, and try to help as many people as I can. “God has been good to me. I have my health. I have my family. The best thing is getting up in the morning and submitting myself to whatever He has planned for me today. I’m excited about my life right now.”