Newly-released video of former Cleveland Cavaliers G Delonte West makes it clear that his struggles with mental health have led him to the brink of tragedy.
A former Cleveland Cavaliers star needs help. Professional athletes are the object of our affection and even the source of our derision during their careers, but once they exit the big stage, our focus as fans turns to the next iteration of our favorite team’s roster.
While current NBA stars like the Cavs’ own Kevin Love and San Antonio’s DeMar DeRozan bravely made their own journeys with mental illness public, the positive steps the league took in support of the two, like mandating that each team have a full-time mental health professional on staff, do little to help former players like West once he’s out of the spotlight.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, West is seen being assaulted in the middle of a Washington, D.C. street, then sitting handcuffed on a curb as he rages somewhat incoherently about the incident. Whether he instigated things or was a victim, the Delonte West captured in the video is one who is in dire need of the NBA’s vast resources, post-haste.
Between the NBA itself, its NBA Cares initiative, the NBAPA, and even the Washington Wizards as the franchise that’s geographically closest to West, one can only hope that some or all of these organizations send in the cavalry before we’re composing his obituary instead of calls to action like this one.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 50 million adults live with mental illness in the United States, nearly one in five. With upwards of 450 players on NBA rosters, such statistics strongly suggest that more than just Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan are faced with the challenge.
Extrapolate such numbers out to include former NBA players and the obvious potential for others like Delonte West to fall between the cracks is downright scary. That said, good can often come from bad, which will hopefully be the case when the NBA and the NBAPA see the same tragic video that the rest of us saw tonight.
Hopefully, Delonte West’s disturbing situation will result in a call to action and shine the spotlight on not only mental illness among NBA players, but a commitment to former players’ mental health as well.