2020 Lakers champ opens up on facing depression after fallout with NBA

Peter Dewey
6 Min Read

Former Los Angeles Lakers guard and 2020 NBA champion Dion Waiters opened up about his battle with depression in a recent interview with Bleacher Report.

Waiters last played in the NBA in the 2019-20 season for the Lakers, and he also spent time with the Miami Heat that season. He explained his initial feelings of being out of the league during that time in the interview.

“My first year, I was like still feeling it out,” Waiters said. “COVID-19 was still going on. It was kind of weird. I felt like I should have gotten right back to training for my return. But honestly, bro, I went through some s–t. Depression, anxiety and just not knowing my future. It got serious, bro. I had to get a therapist. It became overwhelming and too much to bear. I now talk to a therapist every Wednesday.”

The No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Waiters clearly went through a lot not being in the NBA. It’s good to see that he got some help through therapy to deal with the depression and anxiety that he faced.

He explained more about what his depression was like, a really brave thing to share.

“I just wasn’t having fun,” Waiters said. “I had thoughts of not being around, but I’ve got kids. I’d rather be miserable for the rest of my life than to leave my kids without a father. I didn’t want to be around anyone, and everybody was still asking for s–t. I’m a one-man army as far as finances go. I’m the backbone. S–t was dark. Some days, I’d sleep in the bed all day. I had nothing to look forward to. I wasn’t working out. It’s a mental battle.

“I never understood what depression was until the last few years. I realized I’ve been enduring this pain since I was a kid. My dad even fought depression. He had a bad attitude coming up. He would tell me how he tried to hurt himself, but that was something I couldn’t understand until I saw a therapist. I felt all alone.

“I learned that it takes time to deal with the dark days. But you know what? We’re here. There are sunshiny days ahead. One thing about me is I never lost my confidence. Losing the game all happened so fast. I didn’t have a chance to prepare for it. We’re all humans. We go through s–t. I want someone to know that you’re not alone. Don’t ever feel like this is the end. If you need somebody to talk to, I’m here. We just got to stay strong and we can figure this out together.”

Waiters’ decision to speak out and offer himself as a person to talk to is really great to see for other people that are going through tough times.

A terrific scorer who never lacked confidence when he was playing, Waiters has certainly been through a lot of ups and downs. The 2019-20 season was an epitome of those ups and downs for his time in the NBA.

Waiters was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team by the Miami Heat early in the 2019-20 season, appearing in just three games for the team that season. He was later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, but Memphis waived him, allowing him to become a free agent.

The Lakers picked Waiters up later on in the 2019-20 season, which was finished in the NBA’s Orlando, Fla. bubble due to COVID-19.

Waiters played in seven games for the Lakers and was a part of the team that captured the NBA title that season.

At just 31 years of age, Waiters could still attempt to make a comeback to the NBA. He hasn’t played in several seasons, but he shared with Bleacher Report what a team would be getting if it gave him a shot.

“A team would get a guy that can come in and play right away and contribute on the court and in the locker room,” Waiters said. “I can still play-make, score and be a dog on defense. I’m still confident in my abilities, but I have a better mindset of team dynamics and knowing that you have to do what’s asked of you.

“That’s the biggest thing I took away from my absence is the appreciation.”

For his career, Waiters averages 13.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 41.2 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from beyond the arc.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.