COMMENTARY: NBA has the resources to support mental health of its players but won’t


Keith Allison / Wiki Creative Commons

After a recent video surfaced of former NBA player Delonte West under the influence, many are concerned about the lack of support the NBA shows for its athletes.

Professional athletes are held to some of the highest standards in our country. They are constantly plastered across television screens and print ads, and many children look up to them as role models. And as we’ve seen in the past few days, the loss of star athletes can be mourned by a nation. 

Mental health is always at the forefront for these NBA players,so why can’t a billion-dollar industry like the NBA provide players with the care that they need?

Delonte West is a former professional basketball player who is representative of the NBA’s failure to provide their players with adequate mental health care. West has played for numerous teams in his career, most recently for the Dallas Mavericks up until 2012.

Recently, a video surfaced of West being severely beaten on a freeway in Washington, D.C. Fans were immediately concerned at how a former professional athlete had ended up there. In another video, West is visibly unhinged after being placed in handcuffs.

West has previously stated that he came from a rough childhood and had spent time in children’s hospitals as well as engaged in self-harm. He also revealed that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008.

Under any other circumstances, this would be a clear cry for help that most workplaces would acknowledge. Instead, it led to the derailment of his career. When he would lash out, instead of being offering help, it seems the NBA simply pushed it aside.

Athletes are constantly being pushed to the brink. Winning games brings in an enormous amount of money that no one wants to lose. So what does the NBA do? They keep doing what brings in money.

If the NBA was thinking about their players as humans instead of just cash cows, West might have gotten the help that he clearly needs. Instead, fans are now watching the damage caused by addiction without any resources there to help him.

The logical thing to do would be to try and treat players that exhibit these kinds of symptoms instead of pushing them to keep playing. They might be able to extend athletes’ careers instead of burning them out. 

Even though West is a former player, it clearly shows a lack of sympathy from the NBA. If they couldn’t be bothered to get him help when he was a player, why would they bother now that he’s not making them any money?

If we want to continue putting athletes on such high pedestals, the NBA needs to recognize when their players need help instead of brushing them off. What is truly sad is that even the fans, the ones who provide most of the NBA’s money, can clearly see that West needs some kind of help.

Before anything drastic happens to West, fans need to be putting some kind of pressure on the NBA, and it needs to happen now.