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This past season, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love and San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan opened up about their struggles with mental health and how more awareness needs to be brought to the subject.
Love and DeRozan’s bravery in talking about their illness started a movement, as shortly after the two All-Stars spoke about their individual struggles, Washington Wizards swingman Kelly Oubre shared his own battles with mental health.
We now have another high-profile player who is talking about it, as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams has revealed how he had to overcome bouts of depression on his long and winding path to the NBA in his autobiography titled, “Steven Adams: My Life, My Fight.”
Adams says his depression first started to surface when his father died. Adams was only 13-years-old when his dad passed away.
“After my dad died, I didn’t have [the fight],” Adams says via nzherald.co.nz. “I knew I wanted to do something but I just didn’t know what that thing was. And if a purpose hadn’t come along soon, I would have started looking for something, anything, to feel a high. When I think back, I realise that I was actually very lonely and, if I’m honest, probably a little depressed. No one had told us how to cope with grief. We didn’t see a counsellor or go to any therapy sessions.”
Adams used basketball to find his purpose in life. He won multiple championships and MVP awards in New Zealand. The big man’s talent brought him over to the United States in 2011, where he played one semester at Notre Dame Preparatory School.
It was at that school, however, where Adams struggled with being alone again.
“Life off the court was an ongoing series of disappointments,” Adams says. “I did struggle with being alone again and it was hard not to relapse into the depression I had felt after Dad died. I’d gotten used to having a tight-knit community around me, always willing to help out. For me, the trick to fighting thoughts of loneliness has always been to find a routine. I had a packed routine the whole time I was in Wellington and it had never given me the time to sink into self-pity. Once I got to Notre Dame and saw how miserable the whole place was, the door to those repressed emotions became unlocked.”
Adams then went to college at the University of Pittsburgh to play basketball, but seriously considered walking away from the game and going back home to New Zealand.
“In those first few months at Pitt, I thought seriously about chucking it all in, quitting America and going home to New Zealand where I was more comfortable,” Adams said. “I would say at least half of what I was feeling was in fact homesickness and nothing to do with basketball.
“It’s not easy being completely alone in a new school as well as a new country. The usual advice to make friends and create a family didn’t work for me. I got through it with sheer determination and the knowledge that it wasn’t forever. If it would get me to a career in basketball, I was willing to put up with some lonely, painful years.
“The moment I stop enjoying basketball, I’ll quit. Things were heading that way when I was at Pitt, and if there was one thing I knew, it was that I had to leave before it ruined the game for me forever.”
Adams was drafted by the Thunder in the 2013 draft with the 12th overall pick. The 25-year-old’s fighting spirit has allowed him to get through some dark times and become one of the best centers in the NBA.
In 2016, Adams signed a four-year, $100 million extension with the Thunder. He had his best statistical season of his career this past season, averaging 13.9 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 62.9 percent from the field.
“Right now, I’m happy,” Adams says. “I have a dream job where I get to do what I love every day. I like my teammates, which is a big bonus. I have my own space where I can relax and have fun. But the main reason I’m happy is because I have my fight.”