SOMERVILLE, N.J. – Nine years ago, NBA star Jayson Williams (search) preached gun safety to kids, taking out an ad that read: "Shoot for the top. Shoot for your future. Shoot baskets, not guns."
Now the former New Jersey Nets (search) player and NBC commentator is about to go on trial on charges of manslaughter and witness tampering in the shotgun slaying of a limo driver at his estate.
Jury selection from an expected pool of 300 begins Tuesday and could take until the end of the month.
Prosecutors say the 35-year-old Williams shot 55-year-old Costa Christofi (search) in 2002 while fooling around with a gun, then tried to make it look like a suicide. The charges carry up to 55 years in prison.
His lawyers, who did not return calls seeking comment, have maintained the shooting was accidental.
Two of Williams' guests pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, one for wiping the shotgun, the other for hiding Williams' clothes. Both agreed to testify against him.
"One thing the defense wants is people who will not hold his celebrity status against him," said Robert Zatorski, a New Jersey defense attorney.
Williams retired from the Nets in 2000 after a decade in the NBA. He was suspended from his job as an NBA analyst for NBC after the shooting.
In 1994, Williams was charged with reckless endangerment and possession of a weapon after shots were fired at an unoccupied security vehicle outside the Nets' arena. Charges were dismissed after he spent a year telling kids about gun safety.