In a 2016. interview for Cookies: A Basketball Podcast by Vice Sports, former NBA All-Star and ex-con Jayson Williams opened up about his mental health challenges, which started early in his career, and recalled a play which left him traumatized as a rookie.
In the 1990-01 NBA season, the 21st pick of 90′ Draft Class, Williams was entering his first year in the league and had finally got the opportunity to square off against an all-time great. Around that time, Larry Bird was entering his final years of NBA basketball as he retired shortly afterward in 1992. due to chronic back problems.
Young Williams was eager for playing time in his second official NBA game, and after spending some time observing a child-hood hero in action from the Sixers bench, he managed to convince his head coach to give him a shot at an aging Bird. But you know what they say? Be careful what you wish for, right?
Nonetheless, a naive hot-headed J. Will went enthusiastically into the game only to get absolutely abused by Larry Legend himself. In the interview, Williams talks about how the first time he was guarding Bird, Bird kept faking him out, hitting 3pointers in his face, and talked that good old’ Larry trash to him, leaving him completely shook.
According to Williams, it took Bird only a minute of playing time before Bird put him in a helpless state on the basketball court. To make matters worse, Larry only kept going at him harder and harder, showing no remorse for the rookie.
At one point in the game, Bird posted Williams up, faked him out, spun around him, and dunked the ball…
“I’m starting to think while we’re running back down: ‘Maybe I shouldn’t play basketball, maybe I’m not that good… Maybe I should have been a brick mason? You know, like, what the hell am I doing here? I can’t go on now...’ If this guy scores another bucket, I’m thinking of suicide. I really was [thinking that].”Jayson Williams, Jayson Williams Talks Basketball, Booze, and Bullets: COOKIES 029
The incident left Williams so traumatized that he quickly left the floor and refused to leave the bench for the rest of the game because he was too scared to go back out there and face Larry.
Just another name crossed off Bird’s hitlist. There are many things we can learn about life and ourselves through Williams’ challenging professional career, but the main takeaway here is that you never talk trash to the garbageman, especially as a rookie.