ESPN is reporting that former New York Knicks guard Ray Williams died on Friday after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 58.
Williams death was confirmed by current Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who spoke to the athlete’s family.
“It’s a major loss. He’s a part of our Knicks family,” Woodson told reporters on Friday. “Our organization has been fantastic through this. I tip my hat to the Knicks and the fact they stood in Ray’s corner. He’ll be missed. Ain’t no doubt about that. He was well liked in the community.”
A product of University of Minnesota, Ray was selected by the Knicks in the first round of the 1977 NBA Draft with the 10th overall pick.
After averaging just 9.3 points per game in his rookie season, Williams stepped up his performance, pouring in 17 points per contest in his sophomore year and upping that to 20.9 points by his third season in the league.
Williams, who was nicknamed “Sugar Ray,” became a Knicks captain in his fourth year with the team.
After four seasons with the Knicks, Williams was traded the New Jersey Nets on October 25, 1981, in exchange for Maurice Lucas. In his first season with the team, he dropped a career high 52 points against the Detroit Pistons. Ray’s 52-point game remained a Net franchise record for nearly 20 years, until it was broken by Deron Williams in 2012.
After the Nets, Sugar Ray went on to play for the Kings, Celtics, Hawks and Spurs.
He retired after the 86-87 season with a career average of 15.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, and 3.6 rpg.
Following his NBA career, Williams ran into numerous financial issues that caused him to file bankruptcy and lose his home.
In 2010, the one-time NBA star was unemployed and homeless, living inside a car in Florida.
In his last years, Williams’ luck began to turn around as he took a job in Mount Vernon, New York, working for the city’s Recreation Department as a “Recreation Specialist.”
More on Ray William’s life in the video below:
The New York Daily notes that the Knicks will honor Williams with a moment of silence before Saturday’s game against Toronto.