Ray Williams has an amazing story of success, failure, and returning to his home to a community that embraces him and cheers from him just like when he was on the court.
Welcome home, Ray Williams. It’s time to start over. After 13 years of mostly bouncing anonymously through Florida from dead-end to dead-end — the last 13 months sleeping in old faded vehicles in Pompano Beach — Williams has returned to the town where he was born and raised and is still revered.
“We needed Ray back — for a lot of reasons,” said Mt. Vernon Mayor Clinton Young (pictured above, left, with Williams). “He’s still respected and very much admired here. He can help us get things done. And he’s a tremendous lesson on success, falling down — then getting back up again. It was time for Ray to come home.”
Williams, 56, played 10 seasons in the NBA (1977-87). He was captain and point guard of the adored New York Knicks, the toast of nearby Madison Square Garden when he led them to their only 50-victory season in a 15-year span. Just a year later for the cross-river New Jersey Nets, he scored 52 points — set a one-game franchise record that still stands — against the Detroit Pistons.
Those memories never died, even if a part of him did. When his playing career ended, he started a gradual, downward slide, spiraling through a series of bad choices, bad investments, bad advice. Life after basketball was like quicksand. He kept sinking.
He had no plan, no steady job, no real skills. He lost his home, his marriage, his health and his children, eventually leaving him broke, leaving him to fish off a Florida pier every morning just so he had something to eat every night. That’s where Mayor Young found him, after reading about his plight. Williams virtually had dropped out of sight, fighting through both physical and emotional issues. Convincing him to return wasn’t easy.
“I always wanted to come back and help the community where I grew up, but not unless I had a good job, where I didn’t have to depend on my mother, or anyone else,” Williams said. “So I think this is going to work. It just feels right. I’ll make it right.”
Although Williams was hired with the title of “Recreation Specialist,” Mayor Young wants him as a spark to revitalize the town’s sports and recreation facilities, using his past fame to raise money, and open doors with contractors and developers that might otherwise be closed.
Congratulations Ray! Hopefully this new lease on life is the beginning of something great for you and your family.