The past should be left in the past, or it can steal your future. Live life for what today can bring and not what yesterday has taken away.
While at Duke, Jay Williams was a rising star – he won the 2001 NCAA Championship, won the Naismith College Player of the Year Award, and was named NABC Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002. He was a unanimous first-team All- American. He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls as the second overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft.
Everything was going well for Jason: he was living his dreams with endorsement deals, a luxury condo, a huge NBA salary, fame and a bright future. It all came crashing after a motorcycle accident in 2003.
Every tree has leaves, branches, and roots. Some people are leaves—hanging there for a minute, but a gust of wind can come along, and they’re gone. Some people are branches—holding firm for a while until something more powerful occurs, and they snap and break away. Then, if you are extremely lucky, you meet a root. A root is a person who holds firm regardless of the elements.
Everyone in this life has experienced some kind of emotional pain. We all have had an “accident” in some form or fashion. Whether that be a motorcycle crash, the loss of a loved one, a divorce, family issues, losing your job, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and so on. It’s how you deal with that adversity that will determine who you will become.
Being an only child had its obvious advantages—no annoying siblings and a room to myself— but it also got lonely at times. Maybe that’s why I overthink things so much as an adult, never having had brothers or sisters to talk to while growing up.
Not everyone who had been in my life when I was riding high stuck around for this part of the trip.
Basketball as outlet
Sometimes when my parents fought, I just had to get out of the house and do the one thing that was always my outlet. Basketball.
There was this constant shift between two entirely different cultures. During the day, I would speak with correct grammar, and after hours I would be hanging on a street corner talking in slang. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. This preoccupation of having to transition from “acting white” to “acting black” every day was exhausting and a huge source of anxiety.
Lessons from Parent
- Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
- My parents have always lived by the notion that if you say you’re going to do something, you see it through. Once you’ve committed to someone or something, there is no backing out.
One of the many ways the life of a pro athlete is seductively warped is seeing how many women want to be with you. The sheer availability of casual sex will test any man’s desire to be faithful, and from someone as young and inexperienced as I was, it called for a level of strength and self-denial that I couldn’t summon at the time or didn’t want to.
People are like trees
Someone once told me that people are like trees. Every tree has leaves, branches, and roots. Some people are leaves—hanging there for a minute, but a gust of wind can come along, and they’re gone. Some people are branches—holding firm for a while until something more powerful occurs, and they snap and break away. Then, if you are extremely lucky, you meet a root. A root is a person who holds firm regardless of the elements.
People distance themselves from you when you dealing with challenges
In the weeks and months after my accident, I began to notice how some of the people I had always considered friends slowly distanced themselves. The visits became less frequent; the time between phone calls to check in seemed to grow longer. When I was going through particularly dark times, I felt abandoned by people I once trusted and valued. I had been too naive to realize that some of the people I’d considered confidants were interested in me only because of what I could potentially do for them—a tough pill to swallow. The accident helped me cut through the clutter and see who my true friends really were.
Friends – Acquaintances – Teammates
For me, friends are acquaintances; teammates are the people, both on and off the court, who always have your best interests at heart, who stand by you through whatever life is throwing your way. Before my accident, I had a lot of friends, but few teammates. Now, I am fortunate enough to know who my teammates are.
Embrace your Pain
When you move at warp speed, you don’t really take the time to think about all of the small things that have accumulated to make your life what it is. There’s a tendency not to reflect on the past, because you’re so caught up in the frustration and anger of the present.
Done conforming to blueprints
It’s time to stop pushing the pain away and to start accepting and embracing it. I accept the decision I made that ruined my future in professional basketball. I embrace that decision because I know that my road forward requires a road traveled. I spent so much of my life following a specific set of plans, from graduating college to playing in the NBA to enduring physical therapy to getting back in the league. I’m done conforming to a blueprint.
All the Best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.
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