Ray Williams, former NBA player for the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and other teams, died at the age of 58 on March 22. Williams died of a stroke while being treated for late-stage colon cancer, his wife Linda told the Boston Globe.
After his 10-year NBA career ended in 1987, Williams hit hard times—having spent his whole life focused on basketball, he found it hard to hold a job in another field. He filed for bankruptcy twice, once in 1994, and another time in 2005.
When the Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler caught up with Williams in 2010, the former Knicks captain was living in a broken down 1992 Buick sedan, using tattered towels as a pillow, and living on bread and water.
Williams told Hohler: “They say God won’t give you more than you can handle … But this is wearing me out.”
His former Celtics teammates, Kevin McHale and Larry Bird helped Williams get back on his feet for the last few years of his life. Williams married Linda Crawford and had a home again.
He supported young basketball players in his native Mount Vernon, N.Y., as Mount Vernon’s recreation specialist, according to an ESPN broadcast.
McHale, who now coaches the Houston Rockets, also played college basketball with Williams at the University of Minnesota.
“Ray was probably my favorite college teammate,” McHale said on the night of Williams’s death, according to the Washington Post. “I came in as a rookie and Ray took me under his wing. We played ball all the time. We were two guys that just loved to play.”
Williams, 6-foot-3, had career averages of 15.5 points a game and 5.8 assists a game. He was drafted by the Knicks in 1977, and later played for the Nets, the Kansas City Kings, Boston Celtics, Atlanta, and San Antonio, finishing his career in 1987.
Williams made it clear to the Globe that neither drugs, alcohol, nor gambling contributed to his downward spiral.
He worked for as a substitute teacher, a mailman, a bartender, a cleaner, handyman, high school basketball coach, golf course groundskeeper, and more. “But he had trouble holding the jobs partly because he had spent his life training for little else but playing basketball,” wrote Hohler. Williams also had a severe form of diabetes.