National Post (Latest Edition)

Lost and found: For­mer NBA star bat­tles bipo­lar disor­der

- Ti­mothy Bella

Stand­ing on the side of a road near a Dal­las high­way, Delonte West was ask­ing for help.

Wear­ing a white sweater, baggy grey sweat­pants and slip- on loafers cov­ered in dirt, the for­mer NBA point guard was more than a dozen years re­moved from Lebron James find­ing him for a game- win­ning three- pointer in a play­off game against Wash­ing­ton, the big­gest bucket of his bas­ket­ball life. West, who has strug­gled for years with bipo­lar disor­der, sub­stance abuse and home­less­ness, was pho­tographed last week hold­ing a small card­board sign on a rainy North Texas day.

That photo set off a new round of con­cern from a bas­ket­ball com­mu­nity hop­ing again to help the 37-year-old. Among those was Dal­las Mav­er­icks owner Mark Cuban, who was filmed on Mon­day pick­ing up West at a gas sta­tion in a vi­ral video first re­ported on by TMZ Sports.

“I can just con­firm that I found him and helped him,” Cuban told The Wash­ing­ton Post in an email late Mon­day. “The rest is up to Delonte and his fam­ily to tell.”

TMZ re­ported that Cuban spent days try­ing to get in touch with West be­fore con­tact­ing him and get­ting him to agree to meet at a gas sta­tion in north Dal­las. In a Snapchat video posted with the TMZ re­port, West could be seen wait­ing in­side the gas sta­tion’s con­ve­nience store. A se­cond video cap­tured Cuban, who was wear­ing a mask, pick­ing up West in his blue Tesla Model S.

“Good job, man,” the man record­ing the Snapchat video said to Cuban.

Cuban took West to a ho­tel, and has of­fered to pay for his treat­ment at a drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity, TMZ re­ported.

Born in July 1983 in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., the 6- foot- 4 West burst onto the lo­cal bas­ket­ball scene at Eleanor Roo­sevelt High School in Green­belt, Md. At Saint Joseph’s in Philadel­phia, West helped lead a team that fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son a per­fect 27- 0 be­fore los­ing in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tour­na­ment. Drafted in the first round by the Bos­ton Celtics in 2004, West went on to play eight sea­sons in the NBA.

But West al­ways strug­gled with men­tal ill­ness. In 2015, he told The Post’s Rick Maese that he had reg­u­larly at­tempted to kill him­self as a teenager. West pub­licly dis­closed his bipo­lar disor­der di­ag­no­sis in 2008, when he was still play­ing in Cleve­land. West pleaded guilty to weapons charges in 2009 after po­lice found three loaded guns in his mo­tor­cy­cle dur­ing a traf­fic stop. He avoided jail time, but was sen­tenced to eight months home de­ten­tion.

After his NBA ca­reer ended, West’s life quickly spi­ralled out of con­trol. By 2016, West was pho­tographed walk­ing around Hous­ton with­out any shoes, prompt­ing the first public fears he was home­less.

Mon­day’s meet­ing with Cuban wasn’t the first time the owner has tried to help West, who played his fi­nal NBA sea­son for the Mav­er­icks in 2012. As Maese re­ported, Cuban helped con­nect West with a fi­nan­cial ad­viser around 2014. But his ef­forts to keep him off the street were un­suc­cess­ful.

In Jan­uary, West was shown in a video posted to so­cial me­dia of him get­ting beat up on a high­way in Oxon Hill. Another video showed a shirt­less West, badly bruised from the al­ter­ca­tion, sound­ing dis­ori­ented while hand­cuffed on the curb. Both West and the man, who had got into an ar­gu­ment ear­lier in the day, de­clined to press charges and were re­leased in less than an hour.

Once footage of West hand­cuffed leaked on­line, Prince Ge­orge’s County po­lice an­nounced that one of their own of­fi­cers had been sus­pended for record­ing the video.

The Jan­uary video sparked another out­cry from for­mer coaches and play­ers who vowed to sup­port him. Phil Martelli, West’s col­lege coach at Saint Joseph’s, de­scribed the in­ci­dent as “so very painful.”

“All we can do is pray for him and his fam­ily and hope that he seeks the proper help,” Jameer Nel­son, his team­mate at Saint Joseph’s, tweeted in Jan­uary. “Men­tal ill­ness is some­thing a lot of peo­ple deal with and don’t even know it, un­til some­times it’s too late.”

West in 2015 de­scribed his bat­tle with bipo­lar disor­der to The Post.

“I am bipo­lar — just like the rest of us in the world,” he said. “So bipo­lar is de­fined as some­thing sad hap­pens, you’re sad. Some­thing happy hap­pens, you’re happy. I think pretty much every­one in the world is like that. Now there’s dif­fer­ent lev­els. How long do you stay sad? How does it af­fect your be­hav­iour? How do you han­dle th­ese emo­tions?”

 ??  ?? Delonte West
Delonte West

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