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Delonte West: The Highs and Lows of an NBA Career
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Delonte West, a former NBA player known for his tenacious playing style, had a promising career derailed by personal struggles and mental health issues. The talented guard, who played for teams like the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, has faced significant challenges in his post-basketball life.

Early Life and Rise

en.wikipedia.org
en.wikipedia.org
Delonte West was born on July 26, 1983, in Washington, D.C., where he grew up in poverty and faced significant mental health challenges from a young age, including depression and multiple suicide attempts. Basketball became his refuge, and he excelled at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, earning multiple honors, including Player of the Year. West then attended Saint Joseph's University, where he played alongside future NBA player Jameer Nelson. In his junior season, West averaged 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 51.0% from the field and 41.2% from three-point range. He helped lead the team to an undefeated regular season and an Elite Eight appearance in the 2003 NCAA Tournament before declaring for the NBA Draft.
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Delonte West: The Highs and Lows of His NBA Career

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Delonte West was selected by the Boston Celtics with the 24th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. Over his 8-year NBA career, he played for the Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Dallas Mavericks, averaging 9.7 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting 44.8% from the field and 37.2% from three-point range. West was known for his versatility, capable of playing both point guard and shooting guard, as well as his tenacious defense. He had his best seasons with the Cavaliers, where he started alongside LeBron James and averaged 11.7 points per game in 2008-09. In the 2009 playoffs, West raised his game, averaging nearly 14 points per contest while drawing tough defensive assignments. After his NBA career ended, West had stints playing internationally in China for the Fujian Xunxing and Shanghai Sharks, as well as in the NBA D-League (now G League) for the Texas Legends in 2013. However, his professional career was cut short due to personal issues and legal troubles off the court.
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Career Stats Breakdown

Here is a summary of Delonte West's NBA career statistics:
CategoryStats
Games Played432
Points Per Game9.7
Rebounds Per Game2.9
Assists Per Game3.6
Field Goal Percentage44.8%
3-Point Percentage37.2%
Free Throw Percentage82.6%
Over his 8-year NBA career, Delonte West played in 432 games for the Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Dallas Mavericks. He averaged 9.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game while shooting 44.8% from the field, 37.2% from three-point range, and 82.6% from the free throw line. West's best statistical season came in 2006-07 with the Celtics, when he averaged 12.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. He also had a strong playoff run with the Cavaliers in 2009, averaging nearly 14 points per game while drawing tough defensive assignments.
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Delonte West: An Inspiring Yet Challenging NBA Journey

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Battling Bipolar and Hardship

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forbes.com
Delonte West has publicly struggled with mental health issues throughout his NBA career and in retirement. In 2008, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. However, West later disputed this diagnosis, attributing his issues to depression and the stresses of the NBA lifestyle. West's mental health challenges led to erratic behavior on and off the court, including a notable arrest in 2009 for carrying three loaded guns during a traffic stop. Despite earning a significant NBA salary, West faced financial difficulties post-retirement. In 2011, during the NBA lockout, he even applied for a job at Home Depot. In recent years, photos and videos of West panhandling, experiencing homelessness, and dealing with substance abuse issues have gone viral, highlighting his ongoing struggles. In 2020, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban picked up West at a gas station and helped him enter a rehab facility in Florida. West's story sheds light on the importance of mental health support for athletes both during and after their careers.
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How the NBA Community Has United to Help Delonte West Overcome His Struggles

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The NBA community has rallied around Delonte West in recent years, with multiple former teammates, coaches, and league figures attempting to help him overcome his struggles with mental health and addiction. In 2020, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban personally picked up West at a gas station in Dallas and offered to pay for his drug rehabilitation treatment. Cuban had been trying to reach West for days and finally got him to agree to meet. Other prominent NBA figures like Doc Rivers, Jameer Nelson, and the National Basketball Players Association have also been actively trying to get West the assistance he needs. His former college coach Phil Martelli described seeing West's struggles as "so very painful," while his Saint Joseph's teammate Nelson tweeted "All we can do is pray for Him and his family and hope that he seeks the proper help." Despite these well-intentioned efforts, West's battle with bipolar disorder and substance abuse has persisted, illustrating the complex challenges of achieving long-term recovery. In 2022, West shared that he sometimes forgets he even played in the NBA and is losing his train of thought, also revealing he has early stages of multiple sclerosis. His story underscores the importance of continued support and resources for athletes facing mental health issues both during and after their playing careers.
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Changing the Mental Health Conversation

Delonte West's story has broader implications for mental health awareness and support, both within professional sports and society at large. His struggles highlight the importance of addressing mental health issues openly and providing resources for those in need. In recent years, the conversation around mental health in sports has been changing, with more athletes speaking out about their own challenges and advocating for better support systems. The NBA and other professional leagues have taken steps to prioritize mental health, such as requiring teams to have mental health professionals on staff and providing education programs for players. However, West's ongoing struggles demonstrate the need for continued efforts and long-term support beyond an athlete's playing career. Media coverage of West's story has also raised questions about public perception and the role of journalism in handling sensitive mental health issues. While some reporting has helped bring attention to West's challenges and the need for support, other instances have been criticized as exploitative or lacking in compassion. Moving forward, it is crucial for media outlets to approach these stories with empathy, respect, and a focus on promoting understanding and resources for those struggling with mental health issues.
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Closing Thoughts

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Delonte West's NBA journey, while marked by impressive on-court accomplishments, ultimately serves as a poignant reminder of the complex challenges athletes face beyond the game. His story underscores the critical importance of mental health support and resources for players both during and after their careers. West's talent was undeniable from his early days at Saint Joseph's University to his NBA tenure with teams like the Celtics and Cavaliers. He showcased his versatility, playing both guard positions effectively and providing tenacious defense. Highlights included signing a $12.7 million contract with Boston, making a career-high 12 free throws in a double-overtime win with the Celtics, and averaging nearly 14 points per playoff game during Cleveland's 2009 postseason run. However, West's personal struggles, including his battle with bipolar disorder and the stresses of the NBA lifestyle, often overshadowed his on-court feats. Despite the support and efforts of the NBA community, he has continued to face significant challenges with mental health and addiction in recent years. As the conversation around mental health evolves in sports and society, West's experiences emphasize the ongoing need for empathy, understanding, and robust support systems. By candidly sharing his story, he has helped further an important dialogue and underscored the human side of the game that extends well beyond the final buzzer.
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