The NBA, Mental Health, and Delonte West
The importance of mental health wellness in the NBA is hugely important. The initiatives, programs, and regulations adopted by the league to ensure the players and staff have the proper mental health support are becoming increasingly better. The NBA leads the sporting industry in providing mental health support for their players. But what about former players? There are former players who suffered from mental illness and the stigma of having a mental illness prior to the league’s institution of mental health wellness awareness and weren’t provided the support or resources that are available now. Delonte West, the former star who played for Boston, Seattle, Cleveland, and Dallas is one of those players.
Earlier this week, and in years prior, West, the former NBA star has been in the news and blasted across social media because of behavior that is a result of his internal fight with mental illness. The NBA and the NBA Players Association have a responsibility to extend the resources of their phenomenal mental health programs to West before he seriously harms himself or someone else. A prime example displayed in these videos that surfaced earlier in the week.
Apparently Delonte West was seen getting beat up in the street this Morning. I went to school with him and it’s crazy to see just how his life has gone downhill since the NBA. pic.twitter.com/chm6Sbu9h6
— Measha⚡️ (@N90sKindOfWorld) January 20, 2020
Delonte West spent his collegiate career at St. Joseph’s and both former teammate Jameer Nelson and former coach Phil Martelli have expressed their concern and desire to help West. Nelson posted the following passionate tweet and Martelli quoted the tweet and stated, “Over the past several hours I have talked with many who are willing to help…We are reaching out to our basketball network to get the professional help Delonte needs”. The NBA has also reportedly reached out to West and his family to offer assistance.
— Jameer Nelson (@jameernelson) January 21, 2020
Over the past several hours I have talked with many who are willing to help – please read and embrace Jameer’s wisdom – we are reaching out to our basketball network to get the professional help Delonte needs. This is so very painful. https://t.co/8IAuTdzCc9
— Phil Martelli (@PhilMartelli) January 21, 2020
West was drafted in the first round with the 24th overall pick of the 2004 Draft. He was drafted by the Boston Celtics where he spent three seasons before being traded to the now-defunct Seattle SuperSonics.
Prior to the 2008-2009 season, West signed a three-year, 12.7-million-dollar contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves on July 26, 2010. They waived him within a week. West signed again with the Boston Celtics as a free agent in September 2010 and last played professional basketball with the Dallas Mavericks and their G-League team, the Texas Legends.
The relationship between West and the Mavericks organization including owner Mark Cuban lasted on and off from 2011 to 2015 after they signed him as a free agent in 2011. West’s career eventually ended with a hand injury while playing for the Legends.
Following an outburst during a preseason game West was diagnosed with bipolar disease in 2008 and he spoke out about it in 2015. He detailed the troubles he went through growing up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. From being bullied to self-harming and attempting suicide, West had been through a lot. He learned to be comfortable with his diagnosis but didn’t learn to be comfortable taking the medications needed to stabilize his disorder and felt as if others weren’t comfortable with him and his mental illness.
During his tenure in the NBA, West often found himself in the limelight – negative limelight at that. In 2009, West was arrested for having a small collection of loaded weapons in his three-wheeled motorcycle and was sentenced to eight months of house arrest, two months of probation and 40 hours of community service. Come 2012, he was suspended from the Mavericks twice for conduct detrimental to the team and despite Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle’s full support and assistance in varying facets, he was waived from the team in 2015.
In 2016, West was photographed and videotaped wandering around Houston streets without shoes and appearing raggedy and disoriented. When a spectator, recognizing West, asked him if his suspicions about his identity were correct, West responded: “I used to be but I’m not about that life anymore.” His agent later reported that West was being treated for his bipolar disease in a medical facility at the time and was receiving the wrong medication which caused him to hallucinate. Reportedly, West wandered out of the medical facility during the hallucination and had been moved to another facility that was better suited to care for him. West, his agent, and his family were confident he was receiving the proper care and would recover with therapy and the right medication.
Not long after the incident in Houston, West was spotted (and again photographed and recorded on video) in the suburbs of Washington D.C. appearing to be homeless, dirty, and in raggedy clothing, holding a cardboard sign begging for change. West and his mother dismissed the rumors by claiming he was helping a paralyzed man panhandle, “I was helping a homeless man in my neighborhood that’s paralyzed from the neck down.” West explained.
These incidents sparked concern over West’s mental state at the time. People wondered if he was receiving medical care and taking his medication. Just as is happening now, former players and coaches took to social media with their concerns and seeking help for the former star. In July of 2016, Wests’ mother told TMZ in an interview that West was back on his medication and “in a good place”. She also dispelled the rumors that he was homeless by stating he lives with his wife and children.
Fast forward to the “leaked” video from the police interview of West while handcuffed and in police custody following the altercation. This does not appear to be a man who is in a good place and back on his medication. The man who went on an incoherent and delusional rage while answering police questions is in obvious need of serious help. Former teammate Jameer Nelson put the thoughts that many who were concerned about West had into writing in his tweet. Nelson did a good job of stating that he needs medical help, hope, and prayer. Hopefully better times are ahead for Delonte West.