City Paper is not for tourists
While most NBA fans were busy watching the league’s 14-game, Martin Luther King Jr. Day showcase, videos circulated on social media showing former NBA player Delonte West in a physical altercation with another man in the middle of the road on Maryland Route 210/Indian Head Highway, followed by a subsequent video of West in handcuffs speaking incoherently.
According to Prince George’s County Police officials, they were called about a fight near the MGM National Harbor Casino and found West and another man, who admitted to having argued earlier, when they arrived at the scene. Both declined medical treatment and to press charges against each other. A Prince George’s County police officer has been suspended for releasing the second video of a handcuffed West to the public.
The visceral nature of the second video elicited a wide range of reactions from people seemingly joking about West’s plight. The comments did not sit well with others, who offered their thoughts and prayers for West’s well being. West’s former backcourt mate from St. Joseph’s University, Jameer Nelson and their coach, Phil Martelli, have been vocal on Twitter about reaching out to West, a D.C. native. Former NBA player and current ESPN studio analyst Kendrick Perkins urged the league to use their resources for West, and Dez Bryant, a former NFL All-Pro wide receiver, offered his services to help out in anyway that he could.
While Nelson, Martelli, and Bryant all feel a sense of duty to lend a helping hand, many called for the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to get West the proper medical attention.
The NBA was West’s employer for nearly a decade, but their responsibility and allegiance lies with their current roster of players. That’s where the players’ association comes in. They are tasked with the responsibility of serving the needs of their former players, whether that’s providing job training, financial literacy education, or health care coverage.
During the NBA’s most recent collective bargaining agreement with the NBPA, the league launched a new initiative regarding health insurance for retired players, allowing forms of health coverage for NBA veterans with at least three years of service. The initiative had been spurred by league Commissioner Adam Silver and Michele Roberts, the executive director of the NBPA, who both wanted to do something to assist retired players after the sudden deaths of NBA Hall of Famers Daryl Dawkins and Moses Malone.
Former NBA player Harvey Grant spent seven of his eleven seasons in the NBA playing for the Washington Bullets/Wizards organization and knew once he saw the video that he needed to get involved.
“It crushed me man,” Grant tells City Paper. “I began to call around to some of my NBA friends and said, ‘We got to do something.’ I heard that the league was going to step in and try to help him though, so that’s definitely a good thing because I do think we have a responsibility as an NBA fraternity to look after one another.”
Grant adds that the NBA’s new health care plan can be the first steps to help West get back on his feet.
“The benefits from the players’ association’s new health care coverage that was negotiated during the last CBA are phenomenal and I appreciate the current players who helped fight for extended health coverage for the retired players,” he says. “I enrolled as soon as I was eligible and the process really only took about ten minutes.”
While these resources are available to West, who played eight seasons in the NBA and would be eligible for almost full coverage from the league based on his years of service, the decision to ultimately get help is up to West himself.
The last time I saw West was about 14 months ago at a few Capital City Go-Go games, the G-League affiliate of the Washington Wizards organization. West wasn’t there in any official capacity, but was there to watch some local hoops as a fan.
After one of the games in November, West held court in the corner of the newly minted Entertainment and Sports Arena around a small gathering of three to four reporters and cameramen who had gathered to interview then Go-Go head coach Jarrell Christian. The mood was light, and West had a smile on his face as people greeted him. In that moment he seemed happy to just be around hoops.
The Go-Go won their game that night, 121-103, over the Canton Charge and West left impressed with the product on the floor. He specifically mentioned that Troy Brown Jr. had a good feel for the game and that Devin Robinson could jump out the gym.
West became a fixture at Go-Go games during the team’s inaugural season, and when asked if he was around to attempt an NBA comeback, West laughed and replied, “I can’t play at this level anymore, but I still enjoy watching the game.” Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu embraced West and told him to give him a call for tickets.
The arena that the Go-Go play in is located less than 10 miles away from where West starred as a standout player at Eleanor Roosevelt High School before attending St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia alongside Nelson, leading the school to the Elite Eight in 2004.
After the NCAA tournament run, West declared for the NBA draft forgoing his senior season to turn pro. After stints in Boston and Seattle, West found the most success in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he was a starter next to LeBron James.
At the height of his career, West also began to display some troubling behavior. He was arrested in Prince George’s County carrying two concealed handguns and a shotgun in a guitar case when police pulled him over in 2009. West had cut off a police cruiser while riding on his three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder motorcycle.
This began a string of strange sightings and arrests with West. Many have attributed West’s behavior to his diagnosis of being bipolar, which the star player talked about in a web-series documentary on Vice.
“When I first got diagnosed with bipolar my first response was, what does that mean,” West said to the camera while holding his young son.
According to a report from TMZ, who spoke to Delonte’s agent, he is with family in the D.C. area recovering from his injuries sustained Monday morning. The NBA and the players’ association should want to get involved to get West the proper treatment that he needs before things take a worse turn.
Those resources can go a long way in providing even more than financial support to West. With his former peers reaching out to help, West doesn’t need to walk this road alone.