It’s alarming that once-successful NBA stars can suffer drastic falls. Take Delonte West, for example, who was formerly regarded as an elite player. He was involved in the backcourt success of St Joseph’s University. However, 2004 marked the debut of one of Boston Celtics’ most impressive point guards, which soon after birthed a decade-long career across other clubs. Today, the former professional basketball star has been embroiled in numerous legal issues and scandals. Furthermore, his career highs have taken a back seat to the several lows in his personal life. Sadly, Delonte West’s struggles with mental illness have led him down numerous dark paths.
The Rise Of Delonte West
Long before his scandals in the NBA, Delonte West lived a difficult life that built his resilience on the road to great success. West grew up a struggling kid from a home he described simply as “happy-poor." Things significantly got worse when he injured his knee in middle school and had to quit basketball for a while. Furthermore, West struggled with learning disabilities that made schooling hard for him, and he was also bullied by his peers for having red hair. Without basketball to turn to, he quickly spiraled into depression and began self-harming. He also began abusing drugs and alcohol.
Delonte West was one of the reasons the Hawks made a region-final appearance in the 2004 NCAA tournament. By the end of that year, he was 24th overall pick by the Boston Celtics. On paper, things were looking very good for Delonte’s future. However, his early years in the NBA were marked by multiple injuries that hindered his career with the Celtics. Although he did compete in the NBA finals for the 2007-2008 season where the Celtics won the Championship, it all ended with him being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers soon after. As a Cav, Delonte made game-winning shots on the same team as the likes of LeBron James.
After showing serious signs of aggression against his teammates, Delonte West was booked for a doctor’s appointment. Soon after, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In 2009, he was pulled over for an illegal lane switch in the middle of traffic. When the police searched him and the motorcycle he was on, they found three loaded guns in his possession. He was subsequently sentenced to probation, and tasked with 40 hours of community service and mandatory counseling.
Furthermore, at the time of this arrest, he had just bought a $1.04 million home and got married. However, barely a year later, he was divorced. In 2010, the Cavaliers traded him off to the Timberwolves, and soon after, he found himself back with the Boston Celtics. In the same fashion, after a brief stint with his first major team, Delonte West signed with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
The 2011 NBA Lockout
The infamous 2011 NBA off-season lockout left many players and teams in a financial drought. Similarly, after eight years in the league, and despite making over $16 million, Delonte West was also terribly affected. He suffered bad representation and unnecessary expenses, including his drug and alcohol addiction. Consequently, while still signed to the Mavericks, West applied for a job at Home Depot. Eventually, the 2012 season marked a career rise for him, but his finances were still a mess. As a result of this, West occasionally slept in his car, or in the Mavericks locker room.
As things were starting to look up, he began to self-sabotage once again. In the pre-season games, West played with so much aggression and was suspended indefinitely for ”conduct detrimental to the team” after a blowout in the locker room. This marked one of the lowest points for a player in NBA history, and Delonte West had single-handedly ruined his career. He scurried to revive his success as a professional basketballer, but his attempts proved futile after another injury in 2015. Before this, Delonte West had played in China and Venezuela and even signed with the Texas Legends for a brief stint.
The Resurgence of Delonte West
He disappeared from the public eye for a long time after his career’s downward spiral. However, in 2016, a photo of him went viral on social media. In the image, he was seen barefoot, dressed in a hospital robe. In 2020, he was seen begging for alms in Dallas, and it took the combined efforts of his former colleagues, including LeBron James, and his former boss Mark Cuban, to find him and get him off the streets. After drug rehabilitation and a new job, things seemed to finally be going right for him. However, his arrest in October 2022 revealed the former player has a lot of work cut out for him.