J-Will caught in vicious cycle
By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist

The motorcycle accident that apparently has cut short Jay Williams' promising NBA career won't stop a single professional athlete from engaging in high-risk activity that is expressly forbidden in his/her contract.

Jay Williams
Jay Williams is out for next season ... and possibly much longer.
A contract can't stop a talented, handsome, young man or woman from feeling invincible.

Invincibility is both the blessing and the curse of youth. Being fearless is what made Williams a future NBA star. Coaches preach it all the time. "No fear!" That's what it takes to win. That's what it takes for a slippery, 185-pound point guard to throw himself into the lane, bounce off a 335-pound Shaquille O'Neal and tear-drop the ball over Karl Malone's menacing paw and lethal forearm.

Fear a bike? Or skydiving? Or any of the other dangerous activities ruled off limits by an NBA contract? No chance. Not when Jay Williams earns a living playing pinball against men 100 pounds heavier and six inches taller. Jay Williams quit being scared a long time ago. So did his peers in professional athletics.

You have to feel invincible to play pro sports. How else do you stand in the batter's box when Randy Johnson is unspooling a heater that appears to be headed at your rib cage? How do you explain catching a short slant with Ray Lewis barreling in your direction with helmet lowered, aimed at a kidney? You think hockey players fear anything?

Pro athletes are not much different than Evel Knievel. They're stuntmen.

You can criticize Williams, a Chicago Bull, for being stupid. He should've known better. He didn't have the proper license. He allegedly had received several driving citations. His teammate, Marcus Fizer, had warned him the morning of the accident about the dangers of riding a motorcycle. Williams, if this matters, comes from a terrific family. His parents had moved to the Chicago area to be near him during his rookie season.

Jay Williams, 21, had everything he needed to make the right decision. He couldn't make the right decision, because youth and his occupation made him feel invincible. Those same ingredients will trick other athletes into making the same mistake.

And who knows whether it's really a mistake?

Mike Krzyzewski
Coach K and the Duke basketball family must step up and embrace Williams now.
You only get one crack at life on this earth. Why not live dangerously, if that's what makes you happy? You should never be paralyzed by fear. Williams could've stepped off a curb and been hit by a car and suffered the same career-threatening injuries. Part of me says it shouldn't be the team's business what legal activities Jay Williams partakes in during his free time.

Now I'm not suggesting that pro sports teams shouldn't protect themselves. The Chicago Bulls have every right to back out of their contract obligations with Jay Williams. He breached his contract. The Bulls wouldn't be heartless if they cut their ties with Williams once he got through these initial medical procedures.

The Bulls don't owe Williams anything. He's not Michael Jordan or even Bill Cartwright. Williams didn't help the Bulls win any championships. He has played in Chicago for just one season. Williams' basketball family is at Duke. Coach K and the Blue Devils are the basketball people who owe Williams a debt. That's who I expect, besides Williams' family, to help Williams get through these troubled times.

If Williams can't play anymore, someone in the Duke family should give Williams a job. Perhaps he could be an assistant coach at Duke or a motivational speaker.

"Maybe basketball isn't what he was put here for," Fizer told the Chicago Sun Times. "Maybe that wasn't his destiny."

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com), the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB (810whb.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at ballstate0@aol.com.



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