Ja’Mauri Williams: living life despite his differences

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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Bainbridge High School senior Ja’Mauri Williams is like any other high school student. He drives to school, does his work, participates in athletics and plays video games with his friends in his free time. The only difference: Williams was born without hands.

Despite his disability — which will be referred to as his “difference” in this piece — Williams leads a life almost identically to anyone with hands.

“People say disabled, but I just say born different,” said Colby Williams, Williams’ mother.

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Williams suffered from Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS), a fetal condition that prevents development, in his mother’s womb. Fibrous strands of the amniotic sac (the lining inside the uterus that contains a fetus) got tangled around Williams’ arms during development, restricting them and disrupting their growth.

His arms developed to about his elbows before ABS set in, leaving deformed bone and tissue in place of where his forearms and hands would have grown. 

“If I could give him something,” Colby said. “I would give him my hands. If I could give him my arms, I would give him that.”

Once he was born, Colby was told Williams would need assistance his entire life and that living with his difference would be incredibly difficult. She said that wasn’t the case, and he proved it early on.

“He held his bottle at, like, four months,” Colby said. “Everybody talked about how he wasn’t going to be able to do this and how he wasn’t going to be able to do that and how he would need my help for the rest of his life… He don’t need my help, he has always been independent.”

Williams wasn’t treated differently growing up. Colby said she wasn’t recommended any physical therapy or special assistance for her son, and she raised him like she would any other child.

“If you start treating a child handicapped, they’re going to be handicapped,” Colby said. “We just didn’t treat him no different.”

Growing up with his difference was difficult, but Williams said he’s learned independence through his equal treatment.

“At first, it was hard for me,” Williams said. “But ain’t nobody going to be here for me my entire life, so I’ve got to figure out how to do everything.”

Williams has found a way to adapt to things he needs and wants to do. He can do routine things such as tying his shoes and getting ready in the morning, but he also drives his own car and plays sports. This year, he got the opportunity to get on the court for Bainbridge High School basketball.

Williams has been a manager in the Bainbridge basketball program since 7th grade. He has dressed out for games and participated in warmups before, but never got any playing time. This year, Bearcats’ head coach Kelvin Cochran said it was time for Williams to see the court.

“In games that we’re winning, I try to get him in,” Cochran said. “But I hold him to the same standards as everyone else.”

Cochran said he is personally motivated by Williams. Cochran lost his right eye playing “rock baseball” when he was a teenager, and said watching Williams go about his day-to-day life reminds him that he can push through his own disability.

“He’s an inspiration to me,” Cochran said. “When I look at what [Williams] does on a daily basis… I can’t even look at my situation, like, with [Williams], you can’t help but be inspired by this man.”

Williams got into a handful of games this year, and made one of his favorite memories from the season in an away game against Colquitt County.

Cochran got Williams on the court late in the fourth quarter against the Packers. The Bearcats played funnel offense to get the ball to him and to put as many shots up as he could before the final buzzer. 

With just seconds left in the game, he got his chance. A Bearcat player grabbed an offensive rebound and passed the ball to Williams who was near half-court. He caught the pass, took one dribble, and heaved a shot from the logo. The ball soared through the air, and then —


“Before he passed me the ball, I looked at the clock, it was like 13 seconds left,” Williams said. I was waving my hands, waving my hands. He threw me the ball, and I just threw it up. I didn’t know if it was going in, I just threw it up, I had to get one more off. It went in, and I told him like, ‘I do this man.’”

Someone in the crowd recorded a video of the shot and posted it online. The video went viral, and Instagram account @Overtime — which has over 10 million followers — reposted it on the platform. The video amassed more than 400 thousand likes as of Feb 24th, 2024.  

“It feels great,” Williams said, about going viral. “That’s God, man. I just feel good about it. Gotta keep going, though.”

The Basketball season is over now, and Williams looks towards running track in the spring and graduation after that. He plans to attend college and study to be a physical trainer. Colby said the thought of sending him off to college is bittersweet.

“I’m pretty sure everybody’s terrified when their child leaves home,” Colby said. “I just want him to get the experience, and know that it ain’t easy out here.”

Looking back, Colby said she’s most proud of the man her son has become.

“There are so many other kids that are out here, loose, running wild,” Colby said. “My child ain’t ever been locked up. My child ain’t got no record of nothing. No disciplinary problems, nothing. With or without arms or hands or however you want to put it… I got a good boy, my boy did damn good.”