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*Ray Williams was born on this date in 1954. He was a Black professional basketball player.
Born in Mount Vernon, New York, Thomas Ray Williams was the younger brother of Gus Williams, who also played in the NBA. After attending San Jacinto Junior College, Williams played at the University of Minnesota from 1975 to 1977. During that time, he averaged 18.9 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game and where he teamed with Kevin McHale, Mychal Thompson and Flip Saunders for the Golden Gophers.
“Ray was probably my favorite college teammate,” McHale, the current coach of the Houston Rockets, said. “I came in as a rookie and Ray took me under his wing. We played ball all the time. We were two guys that just loved to play. Those days in Minnesota, 1976, going down there in the summer playing with him and stuff. We were 24-3 that year and Ray was our point guard and we just had a group of guys that played.”
He was drafted 10th overall by the New York Knicks in 1977. He averaged 16.4 points in five seasons in New York and went on to play for New Jersey, Kansas City, Boston, Atlanta and San Antonio. After his retirement, Williams struggled financially, eventually filing for bankruptcy in 1994, which led him to lose his home and family. Williams decided to apply early for his NBA pension of $200,000. After he received it, he moved to Florida, where he fell victim to a real estate scam, which worsened his financial condition. After that, Williams worked as a groundskeeper at a golf course in Central Florida, apartment complex maintenance man, part-time girls basketball coach, and bakery worker, among others. During that time, he also received grants from the NBA Retired Players Association, totaling $10,000.
According to The Boston Globe in July 2010, he was unemployed and homeless, living inside a car in Pompano Beach, Florida. In November 2010, Williams took a job in Mount Vernon, New York, working for the city's Recreation Department as a "Recreation Specialist." Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton I. Young, Jr. was instrumental in bringing Williams back to his hometown. Linda Crawford, a nurse and a friend from his NBA days, also helped him.
Ray Williams died March 22, 2013 at Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center in New York City after struggling with colon cancer. Williams was 58.
The Associated Press
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