Jayson Williams calls himself 'a coward' for his role in his limo driver's 2002 shooting, coverup

Jayson Williams, in 1998. (Getty Images)
Jayson Williams, in 1998. (Getty Images)

It has nearly been 15 years since Costas “Gus” Christofi, a limousine driver working to shepherd former NBA All-Star Jayson Williams and his litany of friends around for a wild night out, was accidentally shot to death in Williams’ New Jersey estate. After a series of deadlocked juries and retrials Williams later pled guilty to aggravated assault in the rifle death in 2010, and the former Nets center was found guilty on four counts of attempting to cover up his role in Christofi’s death.

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As a result, he spent a year and a half in prison. Williams, free since 2012 and working with an alcohol problem prior to Christofi’s death, is clearly still working through the aftermath after all but abandoning the post-NBA career that seemed so expertly laid out for him. From a talk with Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim on ’60 Minutes Sports,’ in an interview that will air on Tuesday night on SHOWTIME:

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Williams was an All-Star with the former New Jersey Nets in 1997-98, routinely ranking amongst the league’s top rebounders and acting as a throwback force on a new-look Nets team that made the playoffs that season while hinting of future glories, as exemplified in this famed SLAM Magazine cover from your senior year of high school:

(Courtesy SLAM Magazine)
(Courtesy SLAM Magazine)

The 1998-99 NBA lockout did not bode well for the up and comers, as they lost 18 of their first 21 games. Trading for star point guard Stephon Marbury a month into the season after Sam Cassell’s leg and back injuries put the team in a bind, the Nets went 2-9 with Marbury on board before Williams broke his right leg in a freak accident with his new point guard after the two collided underneath the hoop.

After sitting out all of the 1999-00 season, Williams announced his retirement. He’d played just 30 games into his maximum contract, a six-year, $85.8 million deal that the Nets gave him after three seasons of double-digit rebounding. At age 32, he was left to his own devices.

Which would seem perfectly suited for Williams. The 1999-00 season also saw the emergence of Charles Barkley as TNT’s go-to mouthpiece, and Williams (a former teammate of Barkley’s, who also retired after 1999-00) seemed like NBC’s logical counterpart – a younger, just-as-brash version to stick on NBC’s ‘Showtime’ cast surrounded by outspoken former Philadelphia 76ers owner Pat Croce, New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey, and NBA legend Julius Erving.

Williams’ lone year with the crew, the station’s last with the NBA in-house, proved a failure on camera and disastrous off of it.

Just months after appearing on the show for the first time, a bar-hopping night out with the Harlem Globetrotters and various associates (Gus Christofi was hired to drive soberly around town as Williams and Co. made merry) turned into tragedy when Williams, putzing around with one of his many shotguns, accidentally shot Christofi in the chest.

Jayson, who had admitted in his book ‘Loose Balls’ a few years earlier that he nearly once accidentally shot then-Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet in similar circumstances, understandably still deals with the aftermath on a daily basis. From a talk with Don Burke at the New York Post:

“To answer your question, I think about it all day long. There’s no freakin’ pill that you can take and no drink you can have that makes you not [think about it]. The thing was I thought if I started drinking then I could forget about it, but it only makes it worse. S–t, when you accidentally take somebody’s life, there’s no words for that. There’s no actions for that. That’s just it.

“It stays with you forever. You were reckless. You had an accident. You made a mistake. You were a coward by trying to cover it up. You were selfish and you f–king live with it.”

Living with it, to a point in Williams’ life, meant abusing the bottle and, he cops to, opiate abuse.

He was cited for DWI in 2010 and two alcohol-related incidents in 2009. The ‘60 Minutes’ interview currently finds him living in a rehabilitation facility housed in Florida, one he joined after admitting to drinking “a fifth of Moonshine” in order to help Williams, admittedly a heavy drinker during his playing days from 1990 through 1999, cope with a fallout of an NBA and post-NBA career that once seemed so promising.

He’s been with the facility for nearly a year now. Facility co-founder Greg Goyins, in talking to the New York Post, says Jayson Williams has been an invaluable member of the recovering community:

“He spends an extraordinary amount of time with our clients. … He shares his experiences, strength and hope better than anyone I know.

“It’s about finding what wakes you up in the morning. … Because of the life Jayson has lived, he’s been able to help our clients find that passion. He’s at the gym at 4:30 in the morning. But I have been on the phone with him at 1:30 in the morning with clients trying to talk them into coming to treatment. I appreciate that sort of work ethic.”

Williams, for “forty-three Saturdays in a row now,” buys massive breakfast platters for his fellow Epiphany Rehab Center clients as part of his drive to turn it all around, for good.

While Jayson Williams is not asking for a second chance for forgiveness in the wake of Christofi’s death and the cover up, it is worth wondering if his life as an NBA spokesman is finished. The equal amounts of pain and drive that made him worth listening to around the fin de siècle is clearly still there, and any return to public speaking or job within the league’s sphere doesn’t have to limit his function to that of a one-note warning signal.

It’s early, but if the sobriety has taken hold we do have a solid enough foundation to work with. Even as we approach a traumatic, 15-year anniversary.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!