No one will ever know how Jay Williams’s pro basketball career might have turned out. Would he have achieved NBA stardom as the heir apparent to Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls? That question became strictly theoretical when Williams had a near-fatal motorcycle crash after just one year with the Bulls chose him as the second overall pick of the NBA’s 2002 draft. How Williams went from being the national Player of the Year at Duke to a young pro facing the temptations of fame and money, and then to fallen star faced with a long physical rehabilitation that ended his playing career, is told with unwavering frankness in “Life Is Not an Accident.” Today, he has built a new life for himself as an ESPN analyst and a motivational speaker.
Here’s an excerpt from Life Is Not an Accident:
“My second stint with ESPN was going much better than my first. I was improving in the studio, learning to get in and out with my points, talking more clearly and ssslllowly. I watched as many games as I could to try to familiarize myself with every relevant team among the 350 or so in Division I – a much bigger task than knowing the 30 in the NBA.
“I found ways to practice the skills I’d need to advance in the TV world. The host of a show should be able to have a conversation with anybody about anything, right? So I’d set tasks for myself on a day when I was otherwise hanging out with friends. I’d say to one of them, ‘Give me a topic.’ He’d say, ‘Dinosaurs.’ And I’d make it my mission to get into a conversation with a stranger – at a bar, in a shop, on the street – for five minutes, drawing out everything that person knew about dinosaurs. They may have thought I was crazy, but if I wanted to be a great interviewer, I had to learn how to engage someone who might not be in the mood to reciprocate. Besides, in New York City, everybody’s used to people who are a little crazy.”