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From the NBA to homeless: What we can learn from Delonte West’s story

Photographs were taken last week of former NBA player Delonte West holding a small cardboard sign, panhandling. West has a long-documented battle with mental health.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was recently seen picking up West and bringing him into a rehabilitation center, which he will pay for.

Here’s the story on how West went from making over $16 million in his 8-year career to being homeless.

Delonte West’s mental health

West has always had his struggles with mental illness. He says he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. West has also publicly said that he “used to try and kill himself all the time.”

West also admitted to cutting himself and swallowing pills. He then pleaded guilty to weapons charges in 2009 after police found loaded guns in his motorcycle and was sentenced to an eight-month home-detention. 

West was initially a first-round pick by the Boston Celtics. He spent a few years there before being traded to the Seattle Supersonics and eventually the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was in Cleveland where he had the most success in his NBA career. He then played well enough to earn a three-year $12 million dollar extension.

NBA journeyman

Furthermore, his biggest moment was hitting a game-winning shot in a playoff game against the Wizards. West had become one of LeBron’s more reliable teammates during his first stint in Cleveland. Then came the rumors that West had been romantically involved with James’ mother, which he has always denied and has never been proven to be true. 

West last played in the NBA in 2012 for the Dallas Mavericks before being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team before being cut. He then spent the next couple of years playing in the G-League and in China. His NBA comeback attempt finally ended in 2015. 

Delonte West frequently blew through his money. Mark Cuban reportedly connected West with a financial adviser in 2014, but West still ended up back in the streets due to his spending habits. 

West had purchased homes for both his parents and helped support other relatives financially. During the 2011 NBA lockout, West even worked at Home Depot and at a furniture store. 

Living on the streets

In 2016, a photograph showed West walking in the streets barefoot and in a hospital gown. It turns out he had been given the wrong medication which had caused him to hallucinate. 

Earlier this year, video surfaced of him being beaten and arrested. Delonte West’s mental health has clearly been suffering for some time.

The past few years has seen West receive support from the NBA community like his former coach Doc Rivers. His former teammates Jameer Nelson and LeBron James have offered their help as well.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has long been one of his biggest supporters and even connected West back with his mother before bringing him to the rehabilitation center. 

The importance of mental health in sports

Delonte West’s story is one that shows just how important mental health is. It is why other NBA athletes like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love have been so outspoken about their own mental health struggles and why the NBA has taken more of a role to remove the stigma behind it. 

Being a professional athlete can be difficult and take a toll on one’s mental health. No amount of money or recognition can change that. 

With West now in a rehabilitation center, we can only hope that this is the first step in his recovery.