Delonte West's bout with depression takes a dire turn

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's bad enough to be carrying three guns.

It's even worse when one you are riding a motorcycle with a handgun strapped to your leg, another attached to your waist, and a shotgun slung over your shoulder in a guitar case.

Delonte West was pulled over by police late Thursday night, driving his motorcycle strapped with three guns. While it is unknown where he was driving or why he was armed, it can't be a good sign to have a shotgun hanging over your shoulder, held in a guitar case.

Most of the time, when a person is arrested for gun charges I dismiss it as the foolish actions of an immature person, a violent person. I instantly blame the individual for his or her actions, giving little thought to any reasons for them being armed. Especially with an athlete, there is no excuse for being armed. When you make as much money as professional athletes, if you feel the need to have armed protection... just hire a bodyguard. Being armed invites trouble and nothing good seems to ever come out of carrying protection of any sort.

But in Delonte's case, I feel compassion for him. I feel sorrow. I only hope he can recover from whatever demons that are haunting him. After all, he's the same guy I rooted for when he was a Boston Celtic. He's the same guy who won me over by displaying true grit on the court and a fun-loving, goofy personality off it. When I heard last October that West had depression, a feeling of deep sadness came over me. I don't know whether it's a good thing or a sign of society's screwy priorities, but people start to think of their favorite players, favorite actors and favorite singers like friends. It's why the country mourned Michael Jackson's death with such passion.

When you become drawn to a person's talents, you start to care deeply for what happens to them. I will likely never meet Delonte West in my life, yet I was drawn to his basketball talents and thus it mattered what happened to him off the court. It mattered that he had to struggle in a life-long bout with depression, and it gave me heartfelt sorrow to hear his plight with depression.

Now, Delonte's back in the news and it's in a very bad way. But instead of thinking about how heinous it was for Delonte to commit the crime, and wondering what the hell he was going to do with enough guns for a small army, I can't stop hoping that Delonte West will get help. I can't say for sure that his depression was the reason for his outlandish behavior, but I highly doubt it didn't at least play a part in his horrendous decision to carry three guns on his motorcycle.

"I needed help," West said last October after admitting his depression. "In a sense, you feel like a weaker man because you have to raise your hand and ask for help."

West needed help, he got help, but it didn't cure him from a disease that will likely continue to affect him the rest of his life.

"The ugly head started to show itself again. It’s been haunting me my whole life, self-destructive behavior."

And it looks like it's come back to haunt him again. Depression is a deep and powerful sickness, a disease that often can't be noticed on the surface. But its demons haunt all those affected, and it can rear its ugly head at any time.

"I’ve had a history of doing that in the past, where I’ve quit teams or sabotaged my own success," West said last October. "At this juncture in my life, I don’t want to keep doing that. I want to enjoy being in the NBA. I want to enjoy being successful. I want to enjoy my life."

Let's hope he can once again get help, and let's hope that, this time, the effects of that help last forever. I can't shake the feeling that this arrest actually saved him from some trouble that would have been far worse than a couple gun charges. He couldn't have been planning anything good, not with two guns attached to his body and another slung across his shoulder.

"I don't care if anyone laughs at me," West said. "All that matters is how I feel about myself."

I hope nobody's laughing now.


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