I don’t know if any of them are true, but Jayson Williams has some wild NBA stories from the 1990s.
An All-Star in 1998 as a member of the Nets, Williams began a podcast with VICE Sports discussing the prodigiousness of Manute Bol’s male genitalia and ended it apologizing to everyone he’s hurt in a post-playing career that included a two-year bid on Riker’s Island for accidentally killing his limo driver with a shotgun at his New Jersey estate and driving a Mercedes into a tree in lower Manhattan.
So, yeah, that’s the recipe for quite a storytelling hour with hosts Ben Detrick and Jordan Redaelli of VICE’s Cookies podcast. We’ll begin with Bol, redacting the most explicit material, which still leaves some awfully strange stories, all with the caveat that these are Jayson Williams’ words and not ours.
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“They used to let Manute Bol drink the whole time, so he would drink Heinekens all day long to help put on weight,” said Williams, who played his first two NBA seasons alongside Bol as teammates on the Philadelphia 76ers from 1990-92, “so Manute Bol never played sober in one basketball game.”
After a lengthy story about the size of the 7-foot-7 Bol’s privates, Williams added, “He used to put on all his clothes last, so what he would do, after he got out the shower, he would put on his socks and then that was it. And he would just walk around the locker room naked drinking Heinekens.”
Bol was listed at 28 years old when he began playing for the Sixers in 1990, but Williams believes he was actually twice that age. “He used to say that he was 35 years old, but I used to be on the bench looking at all the circles and scars around his head,” explained Williams, “and I asked him one day, ‘Manute, what are those scars on your head?’ And he says, ‘Well, the white man lost my birth certificate in the jungle, so every five years I take a rock and I slice one across my head.’ I was like, ‘All right,’ and then I started looking at it the next game and I said, ‘Holy s—, Manute Bol is 55 years old.'”
See what I mean? Weird, will stuff.
While Williams warns the podcast hosts, “I don’t want to be one of those old guys who sits in here and goes, ‘Oh, we were better back then,” the 48-year-old relies on the usual rants promoting the virtues of a mid-range jumper and countering Stephen Curry with a hard foul or two, all while describing today’s generation of players as selfish, less skilled, more into social media than winning and “a lot more docile” from smoking marijuana instead of drinking to get angrier and be more aggressive.
But those diatribes have nothing on Williams’ tales about some of the game’s all-time greats …
On Michael Jordan: “Honest to God, he was one tough human being, and it was in anything. If you were drinking a beer, if he looked over and your beer was half full and he was three quarters, he’s going to finish his beer first. He’s just got to beat you at everything. He has an addiction to winning.”
On Charles Barkley: “You knew he wasn’t going to win a championship. He was the worst person to play with as a rookie, because when you went in you got all the bad habits from him. You stayed out all night, and then you couldn’t figure out why you didn’t have it in the game. It’s because when Charles came to practice, he didn’t practice.” Instead, said Williams, Barkley would arrive at practice with a McDonald’s bag of breakfast, sit on the stationary bike and eat eggs, sausage, maple syrup and butter wrapped in a pancake while yelling at his Philly teammates, “Run the floor, you lazy bastards.”
On Larry Bird: “He struts back like only Larry Bird can do, looks over the bench and goes, ‘Hey, coach, put the rookie in.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, put me in; you better hope he don’t put me in.’ And then Jimmy [Lynam] goes, ‘Hey, Jay, go get him,’ and I go in. I go, ‘Yeah, what you wanna do? Come at me, baby, let’s go, let’s get it on,’ and he gives me a pump fake, and I jumped clear across his head, and when I come back down, he looks at me and goes, ‘Stupid rookie, c’mon, man,’ and hits a 3-pointer.” Williams claims he honestly considered suicide after Bird dropped a series of 3’s and a dunk on him, adding, “Oh, s—, I got dunked on by a white man who’s at the end of his career. It’s a wrap now.”
Williams appeared in one of Philadelphia’s three games with the Boston Celtics in his rookie season, on Dec. 19, 1990, and indeed Bird dropped several 3’s and a “verbal ‘rope-a-dope'” on the Sixers, as Williams defended, according to game stories from the time, so maybe these tales aren’t so tall.
He went on to describe an all-night tequila drinking episode with Charles Oakley, how the early ’90s Nets should’ve been better but “couldn’t go home at night” and the time Secret Service questioned him after he couldn’t help but ask at the White House, “Are there aliens?” Oh, and this: “I got drunk in the White House with a president, and we ended up pissing in the same bowl. That’s no joke.”
As for his takes on today’s NBA, maybe take those with a heaping helping of salt, since Williams conceded on the pod, “I haven’t watched a game in so long, and you got me talking basketball.” He believes Dwight Howard “should’ve taken Kobe Bryant in the back and choked the living bejesus out of him” in order to gain respect on the Lakers. And then there’s the hottest of LeBron James takes.
“One of the things I think is wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers is that they don’t have a true leader who can say, ‘Hey man, I can kick your ass,'” said Williams, leading me to wonder a) if he watched the 2016 NBA Finals or b) if this podcast was taped before that happened. “I don’t know if LeBron wants to do that. I don’t know if LeBron — he’s a specimen — I don’t know if he can really fight, because sometimes people say some things for him. I think he should say, ‘OK, fellas, we’re going to go out and have a good practice,’ but I think he should bring one of them in the back and tame they a– up.”
It would not be a podcast with Jayson Williams without some discussion of the 2002 shooting. He described how the incident has haunted him ever since; how Oakley and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin were the only two people to visit him in prison; how he’s been passed over for employment, particularly at his alma mater; and how fellow St. John’s alum Chris Mullin, who overcame alcohol problems in his own NBA career, helped pull him from a downward spiral that left him “drinking moonshine and losing my mind” at a secluded cabin in the woods 128 days ago.
“Any time you accidentally take a life of somebody, definitely, sleep deprivation, everything comes,” he said. “Take something from a man, everything he has and everything he would have, is terrible, and I’m not the victim here. It’s just something you can’t get over, and forgiving myself is something you think you can do. It’s much easier said than done, and I go into places where I can’t sleep. Then I started drinking and I get grouchy and angry and I get heavy and I hide and I’m no good to anybody.
“I’m one of those guys whose service to others is the rent I pay here on Earth, so I’ll just get into a pattern where I’m self pity and just a mess to be around and just go hide in a cabin in the woods on 300 acres and nobody will see me for two, three weeks and just be that selfish. So, I’m always haunted by that night, and I don’t know what to do about it but just try and be a better human being every day and help others. That’s why I wanted to be a part of St. John’s University so bad. I needed that.”
Instead, he’s enrolled at the Epiphany Treatment Center in Delray Beach, Fla., where he’s working on his issues and searching for ways to keep his mind from slipping back into despair. “I’m just one drink away from losing everything,” he said. One way was to join the Cookies crew, and if he’s looking for employment and a distraction, he might start with that medium, because that podcast was amazing.
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