For all the wrong reasons, Delonte West is trending. The former Cavalier and LeBron James teammate has been sighted and photographed as a homeless man. West, who made $19 million in his career, has elicited empathy, sympathy, and confusion.
If West is indeed homeless, we all need to take a breath. It isn’t entertainment what has happened to him and frankly it isn’t that unique, given what we know happens after NBA players retire. Some are not equipped for the lifestyle change. Suddenly, there is freedom. Every minute of the day isn’t scheduled. If there is a pre-existing mental illness, it makes it even more problematic to manage a life where all of a sudden no one outside of your family cares what you do. You are out there hustling. Forget about living your best life. It’s about surviving the moment.
The photo of West that went viral is sad. He’s thin and gaunt with a sunken face and all that is familiar about him- that says that’s Delonte West all emaciated- are the tats on his arms and neck. He appears both younger and older than his 36 year age.
Delonte’s past has indicated this isn’t a new thing but still the emotions of the photograph are both stunning and sobering. A few years ago, West was caught panhandling for money but he denied it. There have been sightings of West wandering around without shoes and looking out of it.
LeBron James has helped West before- when they were teammates- but West needs more than a touch on the shoulder and a peace bro keep your head up. He needs intervention.
Delonte West was a first round draft pick out of St. Joseph’s. After his fourth year in the league, Draft Express had this evaluation:
“A solid point guard who gets about half of his offense as a ball handler in pick and roll situations. Displays a pretty consistent left jumper with good touch out to the three point line. Capable spot up shooter. Takes most of his jumpers off the dribble. Very good midrange game. Shows nice touch on short range floaters and jumpers. Good ball handler. Gets to the rim at a decent rate but has a hard time finishing due to his lack of leaping ability. Will turn the corner on pick and rolls.”
A Celtics draft pick, West was injured early in his career. Point guard wasn’t his natural position but Doc Rivers had hopes West could handle the pressure and duties. Later, he went back to shooting guard and struggled with his shot and returned to point guard. But when Rajon Rondo came aboard, West was unnecessary.
West was part of the Ray Allen to the Celtics trade but he had his greatest moments as a Cav. They needed his grit and toughness. His sixth day as a Cav, he scored 20 points against the hated Celtics, the team that cut him loose. His greatest Cavs moment was his playoff 3-pointer against the Wizards which basically put the series out of reach. That was when Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison mattered.
Cleveland was supposed to be West’s anchor and they signed West to a long term deal. He was the shooting guard after they signed Mo Williams. West became known as a perimeter defender and was able to make an open shot. While he was lucky to play with LeBron James, the Cavs didn’t have much of a bench, and he played a lot of minutes. Losing to the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009, West played more minutes than LeBron James. That was the beginning of the end for James, the Cavs role players, and the NBA world before The Process changed everything.
The next year was the last for Delonte West and LeBron James. In the summer of 2010, LeBron left and West was traded to the Timberwolves. He was irrelevant then, just another dude with a shot that was iffy. He bounced around the league and even played in China. He signed with Venezuela but never suited up.
It’s been reported multiple times that West has bipolar disease but he denies it. Nevertheless, his behavior is erratic, regardless of the causation. A few years ago when he was pulled over by cops, he had a 9mm in his waistband, a .357 Magnum strapped to his calf, and a shotgun in his guitar case. He pled guilty and was given unsupervised probation and psychological counseling.
In the same week that NFL fans lost their minds because Andrew Luck abruptly retired leaving millions on the table, Delonte West appears to have hit rock bottom. Both Luck and West are reminders that professional players are the men you know, the men in your families who struggle with things that haunt them. Luck suffered through a litany of physical issues and West appears to be in a fight with his state of mind. He used to be LeBron James teammate but that doesn’t change the fact that Delonte West is human.
And he’s suffering.