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 BellCSNChicago.com
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."

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction


Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks


Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."