Dion Waiters can’t get right.
Try as he may, the 28-year-old NBA star has yet to fully capitalize on his tremendous athleticism and natural scoring ability. As a result, he’s pinballed between the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers over the course of an eight-year career that’ll be best remembered for killing locker rooms instead of his opponents on the court.
Hell, this season alone, he was suspended on three separate occasions by the Miami Heat: at the beginning of the season for “unprofessional conduct”—the politically correct way of categorizing his penchant for sulking on the bench and refusing to adhere to the team’s offseason fitness program—in November for 10 games after ingesting edibles on a team plane and in December for “failure to adhere to team policies, violation of team rules and continued insubordination” after he posted pictures of himself partying on a boat while he was supposedly sick.
The embattled scorer has since moved on to the Los Angeles Lakers and while he has yet to make his season debut with his new team due to COVID-19 putting the entire world on pause, it seems he’s used the downtime to reflect on his turbulent career and the role that mental illness has likely played in it.
In “24,” a new Kobe Bryant-inspired column over at the Player’s Tribune, players are encouraged to “share 24 truths that have shaped their life.” The only rule is “no bullshit,” and the former Big East Sixth Man of the Year kept it realer than most.
Even the hardest motherfuckers in the world go through depression, man. No cap. You know, I think sometimes the world needs to be reminded that we’re not superheroes. I came from the bottom. I seen it all. But when I go home at night, I’m just like you. I go through depression, just like you. I go through anxiety, just like you. This last year and a half, I done been through it.
He later describes depression as “fake happiness” because “you lie to yourself” and “hide things,” then adds, “Your body literally feels different. You’re just not you.”
He also suggests that time with loved ones helped alleviate his struggles with mental health.
When your mental health is a problem, the solution is right there. You gotta turn to the people who love you. I mean really love you. Not the fake love. I’m talking about FAMILY. Sometimes I’d be lying in bed, feeling like trash. And my daughter Dior runs in, seven o’clock in the morning like, “Daaaaaaddd, get upppppp! Aaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!” Jumping on me, hugging me. And it’s like … damn. I ain’t have that as a kid, you know? That feeling fixes you up for a minute.
In addressing the immaturity that’s plagued his career, he admits to being a “dumbass” during his three-year stint in Cleveland.
I ain’t gonna lie to you. Back then, in those Cleveland days? I was still a kid, too. A dumbass kid, trying to figure it out. Bron used to show me different wines, different kinds of food. I was Philly Philly. I was raw. But Bron took me under his wing—and now all these years later, here we are again. Less hair, more wisdom. Life is crazy, right? Damn.
He also took the time to own up to his mistakes in Miami, while alluding to the stranglehold that depression had on him at the time.
The plane incident in Miami? It’s on me. I own that. It was idiotic on my behalf—point-blank, period. What’s crazy is, my whole life I been a leader. I’m not a follower. [Miami Heat president] Pat [Riley] knows me. He knows I don’t do drugs. But sometimes when you’re going through dark times, you can fall trap to things you’d never do in your right mind.
Later, he clarifies that he never had a seizure during that infamous incident, despite numerous reports to the contrary.
“Ask the doctors. Ask my Heat teammates,” he says. “They can speak on it. For that B.S. to come out, it ain’t right. I made a mistake, but for someone to leak that, and for my family to hear it? Shit. It ain’t right.”
He also reveals that the deluge of unsolicited critiques on social media wear on NBA players, admits to having trouble sleeping and takes tremendous pride in being himself, no matter the consequences.
“‘That motherfucker was always himself.’ If they say that, I’ll be happy,” he says. “If they say that, then I don’t care about nothing else.”
In all, the column provides an insightful look into one of the most polarizing figures in the league today and provides a bit of context into some of his questionable behavior.
You can read the interview in its entirety here.