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Life Is Not an Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention
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Life Is Not an Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,087 ratings  ·  99 reviews
This big-hearted memoir by the most promising professional basketball player of his generation details his rise to NBA stardom, the terrible accident that ended his career and plunged him into a life-altering depression, and how he ultimately found his way out of the darkness

Ten years ago, Jay Williams was at the beginning of a brilliant professional basketball career. The
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Harper
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  1,087 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a memoir junkie, and a huge NCAA basketball fan. I love real stories about real people. I want to know their vulnerability, their insecurity, their fears and failures, and I want to see how they overcome them. I want to know about how they find a way through to embrace who they are and thrive. This book gave me everything I wanted, and more. It may be the most raw, humble, and honest memoir I've read. I wasn't a fan of Jay Williams before I read this book (I wa ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Inspirational, Insightful, Shocking & Deep! A Powerful Read! A Powerful Read!
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book, read-in-2016
I first heard about this book and its author via this interview on NPR:

Jay Williams' story seemed so compelling I decided to read his memoir, even though it is about the world of professional basketball and very different from my own, and I am glad I did. The writing style sometimes got a little choppy but overall I found this to be an interesting read.
Catherine Ritter Guendel
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Duke national player of the year (twice) to a second round NBA draft pick for the Chicago Bulls, Jay Williams saw all his dreams vanish in an instant after a gruesome motorcycle accident. What follows is a harrowing and painful recovery. His memoir is an honest recap of his bouts with severe depression, vulnerability, drug addiction and disappointments. Finding his peace to become the confident and successful man he is today was a journey that took years of experiences.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not your typical sports bio. This is a sad tale of a career that was cut short by youthful folly. At the age of 21, a wild motorcycle ride without a helmet robbed Jay Williams of his lifelong dream.

Williams is not your stereotypical man-child propelled from the inner city into NBA stardom. He graduated from Duke in 3 years and passed up a chance to turn pro after his sophomore year. His perspectives on the NCAA and AAU exploitation of student-athletes is convincing. When it comes to the standar
Thomas Johannesen
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read the book Life is not an Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention by Jay Williams. I came into this book knowing a little bit about Jay because I am a huge college basketball fan so of course I listen to him on TV all the time with him an analyst for ESPN. He is a very smart and entertaining speaker, and I think that helped him write this book. Throughout this book, there are very interesting stories that he tells his readers. For example, some of my favorite excerpts are from during his recounts ...more
James Hilton
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book Life is not an accident is a memoir by Jay Williams. I love this book because it is easy to read and it involves one of my favorite sports.
This is a redemption story. Where the main character Jay Williams is recalling upon an event that happened years before. Jay was a top prospect drafted number two overall in the draft. He had a decent first season averaging 10 points and 5 assists. But that didn’t matter when he got into an accident that permanently damaged his leg. After this he fel
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love J-Will as a college basketball analyst, and as someone who is an alumnus of the same high school as him I’ve always respected his game as well. So hearing him share his story was incredibly powerful on a personal level to me, and this book was truly incredible. It’s probably one of my favorite memoirs that I’ve ever read because of how deep and inspiring it is, and I know it’s one that I’ll revisit in the future.
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to read this after watching the Best Shot series and being impressed by how Jay interacted with the young men, helping them navigate the obstacles in their lives. This was an unapologetic and inspirational account of resilience and responsibility.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Heartbreakingly beautiful. Jay Williams bares it all in his memoir, taking us through the lowest points of his life and the numerous setbacks he had to face during his physical, psychological, and emotional recovery.

“The past should be left in the past or it can steal your future. Live life for what today can bring and not what yesterday has taken away.”
3 Aidan B
Sep 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
7 Braylen B
I loved the book.
Alan Geygan
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the rawest biographies I have ever read. The first two chapters made me cringe the whole time. I could not put this book down. From the insight he shared on the basketball court to the brutal honesty and vulnerability, Jay lays it all out there. He's a clear example that life will have plenty of ups and downs, but it's how you respond to them that makes all the difference. He had to hit rock bottom multiple times, but ultimately he shows that we can overcome any obstacle, no matter how bi ...more
Yichen Wang
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy reading memoirs and reflections by athletes as I identify well with that psychology from growing up in sports towns and loving the game of basketball myself.

This book shows a very intimate look into a rising superstar and one of the top prospects in basketball who had his career cut short from a tragic road accident that could happen to anyone. This is a story covering Jay's mindset and circumstances growing up - how a talented athlete supported by strong values and mentors navigated hi
Zach Zei
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read Life is Not an Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention by Jay Williams. I choose this book because I knew who Jay Williams was and was intrigued by the title. While I knew who Jay Williams was I didn’t know his entire story and what he went through. All I knew was that he was a point guard that played for the bulls at one point. I really enjoyed the stories he told about everyday life in the NBA. Since they are these rich athletes that are on TV we see them as gods, but this memoir shows how ev ...more
Dec 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It was very humbling to see this man speak so passionately and honestly about the most disappointing aspects of his life.

This is written from a man who is searching for his own way of life and drawn to a past time that many young black boys seek. This is especially true of basketball. Basketball helped this young phenom to succeed and solidify a future to provide for his family. While visiting Duke University and being encouraged by Coach K to attend Duke University, his father said something me
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bios-memoirs
Interesting read. A little heavy on the play-by-play of the games he chose to detail (I'm not really a sports person). I thought it read more like a summary - there was no clear reason, no flow, into why and how he changed as a person. I also thought it ended a bit abruptly. There was a lot of talk through of his basketball years (including the post injury time when he was trying to get back into it) but his time as a broadcaster seemed pretty glossed over and fast.

I read this because my 16 year
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it
From high school, to Duke University, to the NBA, to a motorcycle accident with no helmet, to a brief return to the NBA, and then on to ESPN, Jason David “Jay” Williams, not to be confused with Jayson Williams, had it all, lost it all, and then found it again, but not on the basketball court.

I’m not interested in basketball at all, but my dad gave me Williams’ book, Life Is Not an Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention , so I decided to read it. Last year I read Dwight Gooden’s book, Doc: A Mem
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was one of the best books I have ever read in the sports genre. Even if you are not a sports fan, the story behind Jay Williams journey to Duke basketball, to getting drafted to the Chicago Bulls and then the unfortunate accident that put an abrupt end to his professional basketball career is definitely something that really captured my emotions and thoughts on the idea of how quickly life can just happen.

Not to get overly detailed on this book, the overall delivery of this book is wh
Jasmin Begić
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This man could have have it all, for he was a star, he was a true star, he was a true basketball star with a very promising NBA career ahead of him. But in one moment, in one moment in time, he threw it all away, for by a miracle he survived an accident that could have as well cost him his life. He was gifted life once again, but his dream, his dream of becoming an NBA star, and to play in the best, the strongest, and most powerful basketball league in the world, was taken away from him, for he ...more
Jan 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Jay Williams recounts his mistakes and how he overcame challenges to get where he is today. One year in the NBA and a career thrown out from a bad decision. I think this book would be inspirational to someone who may have a life altering injury taking away the thing that made them thrive in life. I could feel his pain and struggle. His tone sways from being an unbelievably amazing God person to "who am I" moments. Unfortunately this reads as much of an autobiography that is supposed to carry dee ...more
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it
A great read. Honest, compelling, and I loved his vulnerability. But I am not a basketball fan and so the play-by-play of so many games went over my head and bored me. I would still recommend this book for the many lessons on learning to be yourself and to believe in yourself and to work hard for what you want. I wish the end of the book was longer (I felt then end was quite abrupt), as I wanted to know about how he developed his sports broadcasting skills. He works hard at everything he desires ...more
Paul Miller
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Must read for any Duke basketball fan who just loved this guy as a player as I did. We all know about the motorcycle ride and the end of a promising NBA career and his appearances today on ESPN. This book tells you everything in between - in a very direct, honest way. The sliminess of college basketball, the beyond sliminess of the NBA (those guys really are NOT role models), and most compellingly, the behaviors and attitudes of a too spoiled, too rich, self-centered athlete like himself in his ...more
Pershelle Rohrer
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2019, memoirs
This was one of the most inspirational books I have read. From Jay Williams' accident to his rehabilitation, endless setbacks, and eventual transition to careers as an agent and broadcaster, this book details his life surrounding the game of basketball. Life Is Not an Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention details Williams' mistakes from his young adult years and how he used them to live his life with purpose despite giving up a long NBA career as a result of his motorcycle accident. This book was we ...more
Nabeel Nasir
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A captivating book by one of the best college-basketball players ever. Jay recounts the reckless lifestyle he lived that led to his tragic motorcycle accident that cost him his NBA career and millions of dollars in future earnings. In the book, he discusses his struggle to recover and find a new purpose in life. After reading this, you can't help but root for Jay that he makes the most out of the rest of his life. ...more
Danell Nicholson
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a biography about the life of a promising basketball star who was a high school All-American and attended Duke University where he played three years of Division 1 basketball and in those three years he became a college superstar. After his three seasons at Duke he declared for the NBA Draft where he was picked second by the Chicago bulls. After a successful rookie season with the Chicago Bulls Williams got into a motorcycle accident which ended his promising basketball career.
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Before I read this book, I only knew Jay Williams as a sports commentator for ESPN. It was amazing to hear his life story. The hardships he battled with his motorcycle accident, relationships, and road back to basketball were remarkable and inspirational to say the least. Many lessons can be taken from this book, and one is that there will be unfavorable changes in life, but the way we respond makes a big difference.
Kevin Stumpf
Been a Duke fan since 1985 so I thought this book would be about his rise and recovery. BUT this book jumped around quite a bit. Seems to enjoy name dropping “just because”. And threw a few people under the a sense of retaliation?

I did not know all of his struggles after his accident or the suicide attempts. I did not remember his multiple attempts to play again.

I enjoy him as a studio contributor and am glad he has found some peace after all he has been through.
SC Russell
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not the best book I've read but glad I read it for all the interesting basketball trivia it has brought me. I now know more about the Chicago Bulls behind the scenes bad boys than I ever needed to know. Fascinating! Always good to see someone like Jay Williams use his tragic story to inspire. He is brave!
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible telling of the struggles and triumphs of a young mans life. You’ll laugh, you’ll smile, you’ll even cry on the train on the way to work with this emotional and UPLIFTING tale. Absolutely inspiring story. Huge fan of Jay Williams and basketball - excellent read!!
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