The NBA made a lot of news over the summer as the league pressed forward with new mental health initiatives.
The league was trying to be forward-thinking with its approach to mental health and announced prior to the 2019 season that all teams would be required to have a licensed mental health professional on staff.
It was a big step forward for the league and in line with a program set forth by the NBA Players Association in 2018.
In recent years, high profile players have come forward with their struggles with mental health, helping to normalize these issues. DeMar DeRozan, Channing Frye, and most notably Kevin Love have all shared their stories.
NBC Sports even produced a touching documentary over the summer titled "Headstrong: Mental Health and Sports." The documentary chronicled numerous athletes and their battles with depression and other mental health issues.
Here at NBC Sports Northwest, we did our own vignettes to help support the series, where Channing Frye was kind enough to share his story with us.
Frye's story is a feel-good one. He has recovered to the best of his ability and is now using his struggles as a way to help those in need. But coming through the other side of the dark tunnel is not always the ending we get.
This is where we are today.
Monday afternoon, a video circulated around the internet of former NBA star Delonte West being beaten in the middle of the street and incoherently yelling at police officers with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
He was shirtless, disheveled, and presumably homeless. The video was shocking and saddening. A man once on top of the NBA world sharing the court with NBA greats had reached the lowest of lows.
I share the video below not to poke fun at West, like so many trolls decided was a good idea on social media. I do it, though it may be uncomfortable to watch, to bring awareness to just how crippling mental health issues can truly be.
[Langugage Disclaimer-- This video is not suitable for all audiences]
People on social media want to point to drugs and alcohol, or any other scapegoat, but those aren't the true issue.
Mental health is.
And West has a long document battle with it.
In 2008, West had an altercation with a referee during a team scrimmage, an incident that prompted him to get help for depression and a "mood disorder" he had been battling for years.
Via a 2008 ESPN article:
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West contemplated quitting before leaving the team's training camp to seek help for depression and "a mood disorder" he has been battling his entire life.
West, who recently signed a two-year contract with Cleveland, said he removed himself from the team to "get my thoughts back together." He missed three preseason games during his absence from Oct. 4-15.
"I felt a feeling of anger and I just wanted to throw it all away and quit the team," he said.
The 25-year-old candidly discussed his condition following practice on Friday. West said he had been troubled by his behavior toward a high school referee during a scrimmage at the Cavs' training facility on Oct. 3. West took out his frustrations on the official, and said the incident was a warning signal for him to seek treatment to combat an illness that has troubled him for years.
"I needed help," he said.
West went on to have a great season with Cavs, but the wheels started to fall off shortly thereafter. He was arrested and pled guilty to two counts of weapons possession and was sentenced to eight months of home detention.
He signed with the Mavericks in December of 2011, was suspended twice for "conduct detrimental to the team," and was waived in October of 2012. He never played in the NBA again.
Now, instead of making headlines for his skills on the hardwood, he makes headlines sitting on a concrete sidewalk.
As West falls deeper into the abyss, the NBA sits idle. Will they offer a helping hand? They should...but their record shows otherwise.
Take Royce White, drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2012. White had battled anxiety his entire life. It was well documented. This anxiety led to a severe fear of flying. He struggled with the rigors of the NBA travel schedule and never played a single game with the Rockets. White says the league wasn't ready to help someone with a mental health issue.
In an interview with the Star Tribune, White said, "I said at [age] 21 to the NBA that I think mental health is the most important issue of our time and that the mind is the start and finish...Not only did they not have a response or argument — as if there’s a defensible argument — but the fans that are endeared with the game of basketball and sport, in general, provided an argument for them.”
White was eventually cut by the Rockets for failing to fulfill his contract. The once-promising star never played a single game in the NBA.
The NBA failed White, but in the time since it has been much more accommodating to its players and their battles with mental health. However, the focus tends to be on players currently in the NBA. What about players from the past?
If the NBA really wants to be progressive they need to not only help players when they are in uniform and making the league billions of dollars, but they need to also help them long after they decide to hang up the sneakers.
White and West are just two of the former players that could use the NBA and its resources. Who's to say there aren't countless more that have fought their battles in private, thinking they had no one to lean on?
Just simply being there can be the difference between life and death.
Delonte West needs help.
He needs help that very few can provide. The NBA has the capability to be a savior. The league has been the for the West in the past, and will hopefully continue to be there when he needs then the most.
I leave you with this, a message from West's former teammate and close friend, Jameer Nelson.