I met Ray back in 1999. He's a legend near my hometown and was, along with his brother Gus, one of Westchester's greatest players. And there have been a lot. When the Williams brothers pulled into the lot at Bonnie Briar Country Club that beautiful summer day they were greeted by a heroes welcome. Some of the caddies, my friends who I'd talk to about basketball on a daily basis to pass the baking hours, even played against the Williams' and they would tell me that there wasn't a player alive who could guard Ray's mid range game. He was supposed to be their next Clyde Frazier, they'd say.
If you played high school ball in Westchester the early 1990s and were being recruited by a big time college like Dean Marshman, Rasaan Young, Chris Watson, Rasul Salahuddin, Otis Hill or Danya Abrams you'd hear Ray Williams' name mentioned in the same sentence. He was the measuring stick. Ben Gordon before Ben was even born.
Ray seemed like an aloof guy, honestly, and at the time I had no idea why. Why would I? I was in college, the guy was an NBA player who lived his dream, right? He had people fawning over him that day begging to carry his bag. How could I know that he was in the midst of horrific financial troubles? What did he do for work? Who cared? He used to play basketball for a living.
As distant as he seemed, Ray seemed like a very warm and gentle guy who, like many ex-athletes, loved being outside chasing the golf ball around. I helped him with a few tips and we talked about the Knicks 1999 run to the Finals. He said they made him proud to be a Knick.
Rest in peace Ray Williams. Mount Vernon God and Knicks legend.