Tim Povtak of AOL FANHOUSE has the latest on former NBA star Ray Williams, who played 12 years in the league, once captained the New York Knicks and scored over 10,000 points in his career.
The 55-year-old Williams now lives in the Miami area, where he spends most of his days selling fish that he catches off a local pier.
With Williams, we get the garden-variety story of how he lost his money - living beyond his means for a time, eschewing a yearly NBA pension for a $200,000 lump sum and being victimized by a “real-estate scam.”
But what’s most interesting about this particular situation is that Williams has never had substance abuse issues. While no one sets out to be homeless, it appears that Williams made a reasoned, conscious decision to live life on his own terms.
Because he loved the game, he started working as a groundskeeper at a Central Florida golf course. He moved on to become an apartment complex maintenance man, a part-time girls basketball coach, a bakery worker. He delivered copiers, changed tires, moving from low-paying job to low-paying job, usually growing bored before he went looking for something else, making just enough to survive.
Twice while in Florida, he was given grants — totaling $10,000 — from the NBA Retired Players Association, which has tried to help him restart his life, but the money didn’t last. That well has run dry.
It’s not like I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life, but I never found anything outside of basketball that I really liked,” he said. “I used to think that life was unfair, but I realize now things happen for a reason.”
For now, there appears to be better days ahead for Williams:
Williams has been offered a job back home in Mount Vernon, New York, working for the city’s Recreation Department. It was arranged by old friends who have been trying to help him in recent months. He is, after all, one of the finest to ever play in that city.
While Williams does claim that some friends that he’d helped in the past had turned their back on him - in other words not loaned him money - he doesn’t come off as delusional or overly bitter.
No, he sounds like a guy who would rather sleep on a park bench and take cold showers than be beholden to those who would be willing to put a roof over his head.
For that, I have a deep admiration.
99 percent of those who hear about Williams’ story automatically think he has a screw loose - because of social mores pervading our culture. It’s similar to those who are reduced to the vapors by a person of means not electing to go to college.
Institutionalized thinking causes us to reflexively pre-judge anyone who doesn’t live inside the boundaries that politically-correct culture has, regrettably, erected.
Williams is clearly not living this lifestyle out of necessity. He’s of sound mind and body and has chosen his path, and for that I commend him. Could he use a helping hand? Absolutely, but as Williams now knows, taking help comes with strings attached - something he isn’t willing to subscribe to.
At least not until he gets to New York.
Ironic that most of us yearn for the simplicity and freedom of the life of Williams though loathe the sacrifices he’s made to achieve it. At least from his comments to Potvak, he sounds a lot more at peace than most people I know.