Loose Balls: Easy Money, Hard Fouls, Cheap Laughs and True Love in the NBAby Jayson Williams
The first candid report from a land of fragile egos, available women, unexpected tenderness, intramural fistfights, colossal partying, bizarre humor, inconceivable riches, and desperate competition, Loose Balls does for roundball what Ball Four did for hardball. From revelations about the meanest, softest, and smelliest players in the league, to Williams/b>/b>… See more details below
The first candid report from a land of fragile egos, available women, unexpected tenderness, intramural fistfights, colossal partying, bizarre humor, inconceivable riches, and desperate competition, Loose Balls does for roundball what Ball Four did for hardball. From revelations about the meanest, softest, and smelliest players in the league, to Williams’s early days as a “young man with a lot of money and not a lot of sense,” to his strong and powerful views on race, privilege, and giving back, Loose Balls is a basketball book unlike any other.
No inspirational pieties or chest-thumping boasting here—instead, Jayson Williams gives us the real insider tales of refs, groupies, coaches, entourages, and all the superstars, bench warmers, journeymen, clowns, and other performers in the rarefied circus that is professional basketball.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The New York Times Book Review
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Dumb & Dumber Don't Even Begin to Describe It--My Years with the Philadelphia 76ers (Following a Brief Detour in the Desert)
The only thing I knew about Phoenix when I came out of college was it was hot and it had a lot of pickup trucks. So when the Suns drafted me out of St. John's in 1990, and when the guy at the podium said, "Going to the Suns is Jayson Williams," I said, "Oh, no, I'm not. No, I'm not." Actually I didn't just say it. I yelled it.
Unfortunately, the TV cameras happened to be focusing on me at that moment, scowling and waving my arms, yelling, "Oh, no, I'm not." I don't think that helped me with the Phoenix fans.
I waited two months before going out there. The night before the trip, I went to a party at Tunnel, a New York City nightclub. I had my last drink at 5:30 a.m. The plane left a little after 6:00 a.m. Then I was drinking on the plane, and when I got to Phoenix, I had some drinks from the minibar in the hotel room. Then I passed out. And you know how sometimes when you wake up in a hotel room, you don't know where you're at? That was what it was like, but worse. I look outside and there's nothing but desert. And as far as I knew I was still in New York. I had forgotten all about the plane ride. So I look outside and there was nothing but desert, and the heat just smacked me. It was 122 degrees that day. And the heat just knocked me down. I get up and there's the desert again. I think I'm still in New York and all I see is desert.
"Holy smokes," I say, "they dropped the bomb."
Now I'm all bug-eyed, trying to call the front desk, ask what the emergency evacuation plans are, who bombed the city, are the phone lines down, can I get in touch with my parents? And I hear a loud knock on the door. I answer it in my underwear. It's Jerry Colangelo, owner of the Phoenix Suns. I'm sweating--stinking, I'm sure, like a distillery. I can feel the alcohol coming out of my pores.
Jerry looks at me.
"Jayson?" he says.
But I'm still in New York. At least I think I'm in New York.
"What happened?" I yell. "They dropped the bomb on us. Where am I? I need to get in touch with my parents to make sure they didn't get hit by the bomb. Can you get me a phone line?"
Jerry's still looking at me.
"Oh, my," he says. "We've got a problem."
When Big Daddy Lost His Voice
A few weeks later they call me to the office, Jerry Colangelo and his boys. I'm overweight, out of shape, and I hadn't played basketball in a while, because I had a broken foot my senior year of college. Also, I'm continuing to hate Phoenix. Jerry tells me I have an attitude problem. Then he insults St. John's, my alma mater. I think Jerry's trying to piss me off.
"Screw you!" I say. Then I knock everything off Jerry's desk. Tell him I'm going home.
He says he'll meet me at the hotel, we can work things out, we have to work things out. But I don't even go to the hotel. I just go straight to the airport, then fly home, to my father.
I figure he'll be happy to see me, so when I knock on his door and he opens it, I'm all smiles.
"Dad," I say, "I'm home!"
"What the hell are you doing here?" he says. "You're supposed to be in Phoenix."
"Dad, they were treating me real bad out there. They're calling me 'boy.'"
Now I'm crying.
"They're talking down to me, yelling at me, criticizing me, saying I'm the worst player in camp."
My dad puts his hand on my shoulder.
"Jay," he says, "let me tell you something. You're my son, and I don't care what, you ain't never got to do something you don't want to do. You don't want to go out to Phoenix, you ain't got to go."
As soon as he says that, briiing! briiing!
I pick up the phone and it's Jerry Colangelo.
My dad's asking who it is, and I'm telling him don't worry, I'll handle it. And Jerry's yelling at me. He's saying, "Son, you don't come to Phoenix, we're going to give you the minimum, a hundred and fifty thousand. And you're never going to make more than that in this league."
My father sees my face and he says, "Let me speak to him. Let me have him."
"Dad," I say, "don't worry about it, man. I got him."
But my dad says, "Boy, I told you. You ain't gotta do nothing you don't want to do. Now, let me talk to him."
So I give my father the phone.
"Yeah, this is Big Daddy," he says, all belligerent. That's my father's nickname, Big Daddy. "What do you want?"
Then there's quiet.
"Oh, yeah?" he says again, but not so belligerent.
"Oh, yeah?" Real quiet now. "Ohh. Oh, man. Okay. Okay, thank you."
My dad hangs up the phone. Then he says, "Son, you've got to get your butt on the next plane back to Phoenix."
When I'm back in Phoenix, because I'm the team's first-round draft pick, the team gives me a Pontiac Grand Prix. The second-round pick gets a Cadillac. I'm pissed off about that. So I take that Grand Prix and I drive into the parking lot and crash into every pole I can see, then I gave the car back to them.
So the owners tell me--they're being real cute--"You know, that car we gave you might have been too little. So we're gonna give you a big ol' Grand Marquis."
But I crash that one up, too. So finally they give me an LTD. Real Barnaby Jones model.
The day I get the car I have to go to the airport to pick up my brother Victor. I get there early, so I have a few drinks. For some reason I get drunker drinking at airports and Yankee games than anywhere else in the world. So when Vic finally arrives, I'm a little drunk, but we get in the LTD anyway, and I drive him back to the hotel.
Excerpted from Loose Balls by Jayson Williams. Copyright 2000 by Jayson Williams. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Jayson Williams, the All-Star center of the New Jersey Nets, is a ten-year veteran of the NBA and a graduate of St. John's University. He is a recipient of the NAACP Trailblazer Award for community service, and sponsors the Jayson Williams Foundation for Underprivileged Youth. A native of New York City, he lives in northern New Jersey.
Steve Friedman is a contributing editor at Esquire magazine and a former senior editor at GQ. He has written for Outside, ESPN The Magazine, Details, and many other national publications, and his work has been collected in The Best American Sports Writing. He lives in New York City.
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