Ray Williams, a 10-year NBA veteran who played two stints with the New York Knicks and one with the Boston Celtics, passed away on Friday.
The Knicks announced Williams’ passing at age 58, mentioning that they brought him to New York City during his final days. The son of another NBA player, Gus Williams, a colon cancer screening had revealed an advanced tumor about a month ago.
While Williams’ career may not have been spectacular, he did average 15.8 points per game to go along with 5.8 assists. However, Williams has been looked at in his post-playing days as an example of the kind of pitfalls that can hit retired athletes.
After Williams retired in 1987, he struggled financially through a series of bad deals and investments, declaring bankruptcy in 1994 — a time when he also lost his wife and family. He applied for his $200,000 NBA pension, but subsequently lost that in a Florida real estate scam.
Williams was profiled by The Boston Globe in 2010, at which time he was homeless and living in a car in Pompano Beach, Fla.
However, Williams did post a comeback. He was helped out of homelessness by former Celtics teammates Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, who initially helped him financially. He was also given a job with the city in his hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y.
Williams did retain some animosity towards the NBA, however. He felt that the league should better educate its players on how to prepare for retirement, and that the league should do a better reaching out to former players in need of help.
“I’m not motivated by anger or revenge,’’ Williams told The Globe a year after their first profile. “I just believe there’s a better way. Why should guys who are hurting have to wait until they’re on their dying bed before they get the help they need?’’
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