5:22 PM EDT, June 2, 2012
The thought crosses former Magic forward Monty Williams' mind from time to time. He can't escape it.
And as the New Orleans Hornets coach was coming down from the high of his team winning the NBA Draft lottery last week, it revisited him.
"I feel blessed, I really do," Williams said by phone late Friday night. "It's such a high because I'm not supposed to be here. I was told I was supposed to die 20 years ago."
Williams isn't being overly dramatic. He was diagnosed with a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the disease blamed for the deaths of Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis.
Back in 1990, Williams was delivered a veritable death sentence, doctors telling him that physical activity such as basketball could produce a fatal heart attack. He was taken off the court for two years at Notre Dame until research cleared him.
Testing showed that signs of any disease had vanished, allowing him to play nine seasons in the NBA.
"It's a miracle from God — no other way to explain it," he said.
But Williams has felt he is living on borrowed time ever since. He tries to impart a message to his kids and close friends to make each day count.
"I do talk about it a lot to my kids," he said. "I think about it. You look at your wife and kids, and you realize how blessed you are. Don't ever take things for granted. It humbles me."
The life experience also gives Williams a big-picture perspective, a tool to handle adversity on the job.
Few young head coaches have ever had to deal with challenges Williams faced last season, his second season at the helm. The orphan Hornets were not only being run by the league, but their star, Chris Paul, wanted out of New Orleans.
Paul was finally dealt to the L.A. Clippers after Commissioner David Stern vetoed a trade to the Lakers. The Hornets received rising star Eric Gordon in the deal, but Gordon sustained a season-ending knee injury after playing just nine games.
The Hornets finished 21-45, and had the third-best chance to win the lottery. Then came another miracle for Williams, the sagging franchise and the hurricane-ravaged city.
New Orleans, purchased by Saints owner Tom Benson in April, won the right to the No. 1 pick. They surely will select Anthony Davis, the Kentucky All-American big man. The Hornets also have the No. 10 pick.
"It was surreal. It was so cool. It felt like we had won the championship. It has been a blur the past few days," Williams said. "Everything's changed for us."
There is hard work ahead, but Williams planned to catch his breath Saturday out on a lake with his son. A time for Monty to reflect and enjoy the moment.
"I'm taking my 4-year-old fishing in the morning," he said. "We're going fishing. Everything else, all that other stuff, it's all gravy."
Former Magic guard DeShawn Stevenson was fondly called "Nutso" during his stay in Orlando.
And he certainly is living up to the nickname.
Stevenson has purchased an automated teller and placed it in his kitchen. There's a picture of him standing near it, finding its way on Twitter.
He told TMZ that he bought the machine for $3,500 and that it holds $20,000 cash. He said he refills it four to six times a year. He even charges his friends a $4.50 withdrawal fee.
Stevenson conceded he got the idea after watching an MTV show in which skateboard star Rob Dyrdek had an ATM installed in his home.
It probably isn't a good idea for a celeb to flaunt his wealth to the public, for security reasons, if nothing else. "I like doing things that aren't normal, and it's cool to have," Stevenson said.
"Nutso" also has a tattoo on his neck of Abe Lincoln in the middle of two 5's. "I got Abraham Lincoln because he freed the slaves," he has said. "I just had Abraham Lincoln and, from a distance, everybody kept saying, 'Who is that?' So I put the five-dollar bill so everybody would stop asking me."
The Thunder are in pursuit of their first title, and Oklahoma City is showing it isn't a bunch of small-market rubes.
Rapper Lil Wayne tweeted that he was denied entrance to Game 3 against San Antonio in Oklahoma City.: "Was going to go to the Thunder game tonight but was denied by the team to be in their arena.
Wow. Smh. Go Spurs!"
Lil Wayne told ESPN in a text message, "They denied me the tix. Didnt want me in their arena. They also said if I do come, I can only sit behind the bench, not on the floor & that I wouldn't be able to get any special escort nor entrance. They said its the 'Oklahoma way.' "
Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney says Lil Wayne's representatives did request tickets, but insisted he sit on the front row, in the Jack Nicholson seats. Problem was, there weren't any available.
"We'd love to have him at a game," Mahoney said, "but like anyone else, he needs a ticket."
And Lil Wayne thought he was a big deal everywhere.
Lucky and good
The San Antonio Spurs are the definition of lucky and good. David Robinson and Sean Elliott missed so much time because of injuries during the 1996-97 season that the Spurs finished 20-62 and changed coaches (Bob Hill out, Gregg Popovich in). They won the draft lottery and picked Tim Duncan No. 1. While Duncan proved to be a cornerstone complement to Robinson, the Spurs also smartly drafted Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili later, winning four titles (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007) since Duncan's arrival.
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