Williams battles severe accident injuries

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

DURHAM, N.C. -- Jay Williams remembers the motorcycle crash as though it happened in slow motion, the red-and-black Yamaha R6 getting away from him and heading for a utility pole.

Moments later, his body was contorted on the grassy curb of a Chicago street. He was face down from the waist up, with his mangled pelvis and left leg tilting grotesquely skyward.

"I remember hearing the 'boom,' spinning around. Everybody was looking at me," Williams recalled Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. "The first thing I was yelling wasn't, 'I don't want to die.' It was, 'I threw it all away,' and I didn't want to throw it all away. I wanted to play again. It's weird how the first thing that came to mind was basketball instead of staying alive."

It's possible Williams did throw it all away, though he insists that will not be the case.

But with his Chicago Bulls and the NBA's other 28 teams opening training camps this week, Williams remains a long, long way from playing basketball again.

Thoughts of impending death or paralysis crept into Williams' head as he waited for an ambulance, unable to move his leg. He remembers how strange it seemed that no one -- with the exception of one woman who offered to call 911 -- came out of their homes.

After being hospitalized and bedridden for almost a month, he still cannot walk on his own.

Using crutches, his movements are accompanied by a painful grimace. With a frustrated tone he describes how going to the bathroom has become a seven-step process.

"I apologize for what I've done," Williams said, sitting in coach Mike Krzyzewski's office on the Duke campus, "but I'm young, and everyone, when they're young, makes mistakes. My mistake happens to be more significant than others.

"I promise that when I get back I'll be a warrior -- someone who's been through the worst of the worst."

Indeed, June 19, 2003, will go down as the worst day of Williams' 22 years.

He has been riding motorcycles -- mostly dirt bikes -- since he was 13 or 14, but on this day he left a friend's house to go to dinner and climbed aboard the powerful street bike he just purchased. It was a violation of the standard NBA contract, which prohibits skydiving, boxing, hang-gliding and other high-risk activities. The wipeout was his first.

Bulls general manager John Paxson wouldn't answer directly when asked if the team will pay Williams his $7.7 million salary for the next two seasons.

"We can't ignore how it happened and we do have to talk about it with him," Paxson said, "but the time is not right."

The accident fractured his pelvis and tore three of the four main ligaments in his left knee.

Doctors kept him immobilized for eight weeks. His abdominal muscles weakened, and the first time he tried to sit up it was too painful and difficult.

The Bulls drafted another point guard, Kirk Hinrich of Kansas, to take over the backup role that Williams occupied late last season.

Williams, targeting the 2004-05 season for his return.

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