You may have heard the cautionary tale about former college hoops phenom, Jay Williams and wondered how the hell could someone throw away such a promising career by doing something as reckless as owning a motorcycle. Well if you read his memoir, Life Is Not An Accident, the book will answer every question you’ve ever had about the man.
The book begins on the day of his accident and then works backward (kind of like a movie—upon writing this, I immediately pictured Michael B. Jordan playing the role of Jay Williams). Williams had just finished his rookie campaign and had barely gotten used to NBA life before the abrupt end to his playing career. Unlike Bobby Hurley, another legendary Duke point guard who managed to salvage a couple of years playing despite his own life threatening vehicular accident (car crash), Williams never played in the league again.
The memoir then follows back towards the twists and turns that dog Williams all the way through rehab and his post NBA career, detailing the mental anguish he felt from self-directed guilt and anger. Sandwiched between the details surrounding the accident and his journey to becoming one of ESPN’s best basketball analysts, are tales of various on the court and off the court experiences by the 2002 Naismith Player of the Year.
Most notable are:
- Scoring 9 of the 11 points in a pickup game while being guarded by J.J. Redick.
- His recruitment as a high school player and his unrequited desire to be a UNC Tar Heel.
- His collegiate battles against the Maryland Terrapins;including this unforgettable game.
- Playing with Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
- Being on the Bulls with Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford.
- Losing the stamina and quickness that gave him an advantage over other college studs.
- A brief career as an agent that included an unsavory recruitment process of Kevin Love.
After a successful rehab stint that involved relearning how to walk, Jay Williams discusses his unsuccessful comeback attempts and his head space immediately following the wreck. Painfully honest, Williams gives an unflinching account of his addiction to pain-killers and being suicidal period.
The most pivotal moment of the book comes when Williams realizes that the self-pity and neurosis that led him to his post-injury depression may have been the same factors that led him towards that fateful bike wreck.
Williams finally gets to a point where he decides to start embracing the things still in his life, instead of mulling over the things that he (seemingly) threw away in his costly accident. It is here where he confronts his insecurities and demons head on, and turns his life around.
Although not Pulitzer material, this memoir is well written and insightful into the pressures some players deal with the moment they realize they have an opportunity to achieve their wildest dreams. Even the most fervent of Duke haters can empathize with the on the court wins and off the court losses of one of college basketball’s most decorated players. I give this book a B+.
Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org.