Charles Oakley and Jayson Williams were fierce on-court rivals during the 1990s, but out of their competitive nature grew a mutual respect for one another that has carried on to this day. Their lives have taken wildly-divergent paths since their playing days, as Oak has settled into a somewhat leisurely existence as a burgeoning chef, while Williams’ took a tragic turn when he was involved in the 2002 shooting death of his limo driver.
Williams’ legal troubles have been ongoing ever since, and the common thread has been his issues with alcohol abuse. But Williams is reportedly now in recovery and will have a year sober in January. That’s in no small part thanks to his old friend and rival, and the story of how Oak helped Williams find a good rehab facility is one of most inspiring things you’ll read this week. Via John Wertheim of SI.com:
When Williams hit bottom early this year, one of his first calls was to Oakley. Williams knew he needed help and had heard about Epiphany. Volunteering to check the place out, Oakley got in his truck and drove 1,200 miles to Delray Beach from Cleveland, toured the facility and interviewed the founders. Oakley says that while he has no firsthand experience with rehab or substance abuse, he had seen plenty of it secondhand. And he prides himself on his b.s. detector. After inspecting Epiphany, Oakley told Williams, “Go there. And go there now.” Williams grows emotional recalling this. “Oak is the perfect nickname for Charles,” says Williams. “Solid as they come.”
The two have stayed in close contact since, with Oakley texting him frequently just to check in and making regular visits to play basketball and tennis together and cook barbecue for all of the residents in the facility. During his NBA days with the bruise-em-up Knicks, Oakley built quite the reputation as a tough guy on the court, but a story like this reveals a man of deep character and compassion. If only we could all be so lucky as to have a friend like Oak.