Ray Williams, who played his best basketball for the Nets and Knicks, died Friday of colon cancer at a New York hospital at age 58. His death ended a struggle that included him being discovered living in a car and then being diagnosed with cancer. James Dolan, the Knicks owner, paid for his cancer treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, where he died. The Knicks announced his death.
Williams played twice for the Nets and twice for the Knicks. Arguably, his best season came with the Nets in 1981-82 when he averaged 20.4 points and 6.0 assists on a Larry Brown-coached team that included Buck Williams, Mike Gminski, Mike O'Koren,Albert King and Darwin Cook.
He was drafted by the Knicks, where spent his first four seasons. Williams signed with the New Jersey Nets in 1981. On April 17, 1982, the last game of the season, Williams scored 52 points, a career best and the highest in Nets history until Deron Williams' 57-point game last season. In the playoffs this season, he averaged 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists, but the Nets lost in the first round.. Williams was traded to the Kansas City Kings in the off-season for Phil Ford but never reached the same level of play with the Knicks, Clippers, Celtics or Spurs. He returned to the Nets to close out his career in 1985-87, averaging 9.9 points in 32 games his last year.
After his career ended, he became, as Deadspin noted, the "ultimate cautionary tale." He lost much of the money he made in the NBA in bad investments as well as his family and was found by the Boston Globe living in car.
As Deadspin wrote this morning, "When Bob Hohler caught up with him in 2010, he had become homeless, sleeping in shelters or on park benches or in abandoned cars. He fished every day, eating what he caught and selling the rest. He blamed the NBA for not doing enough for its retired players."
Larry Bird and Kevin McHale helped stake him to a new start but was disagnosed with advanced colon cancer. Dolan paid for Williams to be treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
- Ray Williams, The Ultimate Post-NBA Cautionary Tale, Is Dead At 58 - Barry Petchesky - Deadspin