February 22, 2002
It was a sad day when yet another serious injury forced Jayson to retire, though a remarkable amount of cash probably cushioned the blow for him somewhat. Following his playing days he stayed active in the Jersey area and in the media, operating a local pro lacrosse team, writing a pretty funny book (one that is being noticed now mainly for its skeet-shooting anecdotes), appearing regularly on the radio, and eventually landing an analyst job on NBC. He had long left behind his bad reputation from his early 76ers days and had emerged as basketball’s leading bon vivant, a Don Meredith or Joe Garagiola for the NBA.
Still, the local sports talk radio shows would occasionally have worrying stories about his involvement in a late night bar brawl or some situation at his mansion. Almost invariably the host would take his side, giving him the benefit of the doubt; to an almost unheard of extent he was loved by the local media, as he was a great guy who always gave great quote.
I imagine you know what happened next: though the details are sketchy, what is known is that 55-year-old limo driver Costas Christofi was shot and killed at Williams’ estate, and that published reports place the blame on Williams, supposedly showing off his shotgun when it accidentally fired. A terrible tragedy, but listening to the radio these past few days might make one wonder who the victim really was. As always, the local sports reporters have stood behind him, with the general comment being that they hope "he makes his way through this" and that it’s yet another dark day in a troubled life, as if Williams is somehow the innocent party in this, as if a truly innocent man isn’t dead for no reason. He was, and is, a good man, but no man is good enough to overlook every fault, especially something like this.
Adrian Wojnarowski of the Bergen Record has written a good piece about Williams’ life, troubles, and why he was loved by the media. "An Episode With No Happy Ending" perhaps veers a little too close to the attitude I criticize, but also offers an idea of where this attitude originated. It’s well worth reading.
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