Mike Williams has a message for today's youth

Mike Williams has a message for today's youth

Friday, Sept. 9, 2011
posted: 1:22 p.m.

By Taylor
Several of Mike Williams' old friends, teammates and admiring opponents staged a surprise birthday party for the former De La Salle basketball star on Aug. 14. It was a joyous occasion for the 48-year-old who hasn't had too many reasons to celebrate in recent years.

"It was a roll call of players. Levi Cobb, J.J. Anderson, Donald Reese, Carl Golston, Paul Beane, Greg Williams, Lamone Lampley, Pierre Cooper, Darryl Allen, Demetrius Brown," Williams said. "I'm doing good man, hanging in there. I'm lucky to be alive."

Williams' life story is worth noting. ESPN is planning a documentary in October and ESPN The Magazine is working on a story. A book is in the works and a Los Angeles production company is doing a motion picture. Chicago radio station WVON is doing a show and he had a four-minute segment on NBC's Today show.

It's all about a guy who played only 102 minutes in the NBA, was shot eight times and paralyzed from the waist down in a bar fight in Atlanta in 2009, is learning to walk again in a Chicago nursing and rehabilitation center and is speaking out to teenagers about curtailing violence with guns, an issue he is well qualified to preach about.

"It isn't a calling," he said. "People don't see what they do to other people. I've got a lot of damage to me. Financially, it destroyed me. I've gone through a lot of pain. I lost bladder and bowel control and I have only one kidney. I used to be 6-foot-9 and weighed 275 pounds. I'm gaining my weight back.

"There's a whole lot I want to say. There is no catch phrase. I want to hit home, save a life, don't take a life. Whatever you believe, you'll have to answer for what you do. I want to show kids what they are doing to people. I happened to live. But look what I have to go through on a daily basis."

Williams grew up in Roseland, across from Fenger High School. He attended St. Anselm's grade school, which also sent LaRue Martin to De La Salle. Williams was influenced by Andrew Summerlin, a CYO coach and an icon in the South Side neighborhood, who suggested that he should join coach Jerry Tokars' program at De La Salle.

"De La Salle had a great program in those days. I still think we should have won the state title in 1980," recalled Williams, who started on De La Salle's state quarterfinal teams in 1979 and 1980 and was an All-Stater as a senior in 1981.

He played on a Chicago all-star team with Walter Downing, Andre Goode, Paul Beane, Carl Golston, Dan Ivankovich, Kevin Upshaw and Greg Williams.

They played in the Boston Shootout and in New York against teams that featured Patrick Ewing, Pearl Washington and Adrian Branch.

"Those were the good old days," he said.

Williams starred on De La Salle teams that eliminated top-ranked St.

Joseph and Isiah Thomas from the state tournament in 1979 and beat Proviso East and Glenn "Doc" Rivers in 1980. Later, he played at Cincinnati, then left when coach Ed Badger became coach of the Chicago Bulls and transferred to Bradley to play for Dick Versace. He is a member of Bradley's 1980s Team of the Decade.

He was selected by the Golden State Warriors as the fourth pick in the third round of the 1986 NBA draft. He played for three years in Italy and ended his career with the Atlanta Hawks in 1989-90. He saw only 102 minutes of playing time in the NBA.

"It wasn't disappointing at all," he said. "I made it. I played in the NBA. How many kids can say that? I had suffered a lot of injuries that held me back. I had broken my wrist in Cincinnati. I was just thrilled to get some points and block some shots and dunk on some guys. I blocked Clyde Drexler's dunk and Robert Parish's shot. So many kids don't get that chance."

Then Williams' life took a tragic turn. Working as a security guard at a night club in Atlanta, he responded to a fight.

"The next thing I know I start to hear shots," he recalled. "I fell to the ground. I don't know if I was hit. I just remember the one that hit my back. It hurt. I felt my legs go numb. I stayed conscious until the paramedics got there.

"I'm thinking 'I'm not going to like this.' I started fighting to stay alive. They take me to the hospital, the doctor said the estimated time of arrival was 18 minutes. 'Hey, I don't have 18 minutes,' I said in the ambulance. They saved my life.

"When I got to the hospital, I said, 'Just give me something for the pain.' Then I woke up two months later. Nobody said anything about how serious it was. When I woke up, I realized I couldn't move my legs and I knew something was wrong. I'm determined to walk again."

Ironically, it is Ivankovich, now a Chicago orthopedic surgeon, who is overseeing his old teammate's rehabilitation and recovery. Williams saw a story on television about a youngster who had suffered a spinal chord injury in the Haitian earthquake who was brought to Chicago by Ivankovich for care.

Williams recognized Ivankovich. "That's Big Dan," he said, instantly recalling the seven-footer from Glenbrook South. "Maybe he can help me. That's how we got started."

He e-mailed Ivankovich, who called Williams. He spent five weeks at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and has been at GlenCrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 2451 W. Touhy ever since.

"I can take a few steps with braces and a walker. I can stand but my ankles don't move. I have a lot of nerve damage," Williams said. "Dan is my guardian angel. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am. I'm really lucky to be alive."

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

The first domino of this offseason’s third base market has fallen.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, free agent Anthony Rendon is set to sign a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Texas Rangers were also linked to Rendon in recent days, but they’ll now have to shift their focus elsewhere. Texas’ attention is now on the other superstar free agent third baseman — Josh Donaldson — as’s TR Sullivan reported. The same can be said about Rendon’s former team, the Washington Nationals.

This leads us to the Cubs and Kris Bryant. With Rendon off the board and Donaldson soon to follow, a potential trade market for the Cubs third baseman is growing clearer.

Only one of the Rangers and Nationals can sign Donaldson, not to mention his most recent team — the Atlanta Braves. When Donaldson’s domino falls, two of these teams will be left empty-handed in their pursuit of a third baseman.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also were linked to Rendon, though they don’t necessarily need a third baseman with Justin Turner manning the hot corner. Their pursuit of Rendon points to how they’re willing to shift Turner off third base, however. Add them to the list of teams seeking third base help.

Add that all up, and you have four teams in the market for Donaldson. The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to trade Bryant, but they’ll soon find themselves with some leverage. For the three teams that don’t land Donaldson, the most logical move will be to inquire with the Cubs about trading for Bryant. The Nationals have already inquired about Bryant, according to's Jon Morosi.

Bryant’s unresolved grievance case will be an issue in any potential negotiations. The difference between two years of control (if he loses) and one (if he wins) is big when it comes to his value. Even though they’ll have leverage over interested teams, the Cubs will yield stronger trade proposals for Bryant if he loses his case.

But, again, a trade is no certainty. What is certain is teams will be inquiring about Bryant in the not-so-distant future, once Donaldson chooses his free agent destination.

Four observations: Bulls rout Atlanta Hawks in much-needed get-right game

Four observations: Bulls rout Atlanta Hawks in much-needed get-right game

The Bulls picked up a valuable get-right win in a 136-102 blowout of the Atlanta Hawks. Observations from a game the Bulls had to win, and did handily:

The bench provided a spark (again)

Bulls starters not named Zach LaVine got off to a sluggish start in this one. At the 3:14 mark of the first, the Hawks led 29-21 and were shooting a scalding 13-for-18 (72.2%) from the field (3-for-6 from 3-point range). LaVine had 12 of the Bulls’ 21 points.

The hosts ended the period ahead 37-33, buoyed by a 16-4 run by a bench unit of Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine, Thad Young, and Daniel Gafford. Valentine hit four floaters over that stretch, Gafford had a resounding block, White had a strong and-one take over Alex Len and Thad Young tallied five points, for good measure. 

Bench runs have become commonplace for this Bulls team, even in the midst of a three-game losing streak. This one carried over into the second quarter, which the Bulls won 29-19, holding Atlanta to 6-for-21 (28.6%) shooting, 2-for-10 (20%) from three. They didn't look back from there.

Young finished the first half with nine points, four rebounds, and two assists. White had a flashy night — tallying 19 points. Valentine and Gafford connected on a handful of alley-oops (which has quickly become a tradition).

Zach LaVine bounced back

LaVine — averaging 20 points on 33.3% shooting during the team’s three-game losing streak — was ripe for a breakout, and this Hawks team (29th in the NBA in defensive rating) presented an opportunity to bounce back. He took advantage.

As mentioned, LaVine carried the Bulls offense early: he had 18 first-half points on 7-for-9 shooting. Embedded in that line were a few highlight-reel dunks that awoke the United Center:

He tacked on a cool 17 (!) in the third quarter before coming out with the game out of reach for the Hawks. LaVine finished the night leading all scorers with 35 points and shot a staggering 7-for-7 from 3-point range. When he’s on, it’s too much fun, and he dazzled in this one. 

In a favorable matchup, the defense kept rolling

Coming into this game, we knew the Bulls defense, theoretically, matched up well with Atlanta’s offense plan of attack. For the most part, that bore out, in practice.

Kris Dunn was outstanding in containing Trae Young tonight, hounding him off of every screen (where he was usually aided by a hedge from the big in coverage) and staying attached even in instances when Young was able to penetrate.

Young didn’t score until the 11:07 mark in the second quarter and finished the night with 15 points on 4-for-14 shooting (1-for-6 from three) and seven turnovers. This is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA we’re talking about here. He did rack up 13 assists (six in the first quarter) — and some were very, very pretty — but most of those came in transition. In the halfcourt, the Bulls’ set defense effectively bottled him up.

The Hawks, as a team, committed 23 turnovers on the night, which the Bulls were able to convert into 15 points. Atlanta is an inferior opponent, yes, but it was a strong showing, nonetheless.

Blowouts are fun

This one was a little too close for comfort early on but ended in a rout. The Bulls simply outclassed the Hawks, winning statistical categories this team has often been overmatched in, from rebounds (42-40) to points in the paint (78-42), to blocks (7-4), to the 3-point battle. Lauri Markkanen even utilized garbage time to turn a fine stat line into a good one: he had 10 points in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting. 

So, you know what? Rest your brain with some of the best clips of the night. You’ve earned it:





The Bulls can push questions about fourth-quarter stagnation, cold shooting streaks, and crowded rotations until this weekend. This was a solid overall performance.

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