Updated: January 12, 8:58 PM ET
The rise and fall of Jayson Williams
By David Aldridge
Special to ESPN.com
I have fired one of Jayson Williams' shotguns.
It was as surreal as it sounds.
Out back, Jayson and his father were clearing aside brush from the acres of land he'd bought. Jayson was telling me about what a good hunter he'd become at his dad's side. And he asked me if I wanted to try shooting at a target. Now, I'm a city kid, but my experience with shooting guns was limited to the carnivals that used to come through town when I was growing up. You can't punk out, though, when someone asks you to fire off some rounds.
The gun was heavier than I imagined it would be. I raised it to eye level, thought I lined the target up in my sights, and, after what seemed like minutes, pulled the trigger. The recoil was sharp and I actually saw the bullet path. It zigzagged crazily, like a bumblebee on Red Bull.
The next thing I heard was Jayson laughing. Loudly.
Seems I missed the target by a smidge.
It was a nice ending to an emotional morning. And I remember being happy for Jayson, because I imagined the rest of his life would go better than what had preceded.
But that has not happened. We will in good time find out what Jayson Williams did on Valentine's Day at that house with another one of his shotguns, whether he fired the shot that killed Costas Christofi, and if he did, if it was an accident or the result of carelessness. I am not in a position to determine what happened that night. The police and the eyewitnesses -- and maybe Williams himself -- will get that story out before too much longer.
Let me be clear. If Williams is convicted of reckless manslaughter, he should do whatever time is mandated in the sentencing guidelines. The local prosector has it exactly right when he says, "I agree it was tragic and it may even have been an accident. But, at base, every reckless manslaughter is an accident." True. And Williams should be prepared.
But there would be more than one victim in this tragedy.
Williams has been good to a lot of people over the years. He filled up reporters' notebooks from Boston to Phoenix. He was always engaging and funny and never seemed to take himself too seriously. He made the all-interview team every season for a reason. He would answer any question on any topic, including those far-afield ones you sometimes have to do when you're a reporter. You'll be doing a story on a guy and someone tells you, "Oh, while you're there, can you ask him who his favorite wrestler is?" A lot of guys get upset and don't play along, but Williams was always game.
He had been, if not an alcoholic, someone who didn't handle drinking well, and that had made him, on occasion, violent. He had changed that part of his life and dealt with his problems handling anger.
And he was so proud of his outsized house. It was a common meeting ground for family, friends and people wandering by. He had adopted some of his sisters' sons (becoming, in the process, one of the league's youngest grandfathers). He had suffered a devastating knee injury in 1999 but had landed on his feet at NBC, where he did a lively, if uneven, studio show.
He was trying to get on with his life. And that, no matter what develops over the next few months, is now over.
He had named his estate "Who Knew?"
Who knew, indeed.
David Aldridge is an NBA reporter for ESPN.