DeMar DeRozan opens up on mental health struggles, Raptors trade: ‘Knocked me to my f—ing knees’

DeMar DeRozan is one of the NBA’s most vocal advocates for mental health care.

The Bulls star has been open about his struggles with demons over the course of his playing career. Like many people, DeRozan’s life hasn’t been one filled with roses and rainbows. It’s been a journey filled with momentous highs and depth-defying lows, all while a television camera follows his every move.

It’s a dangerous oxymoron, one that can strike fear into everything someone feels passionate about. DeRozan is no exception, having famously given fans an insight into his psyche after tweeting the following during a tough spell back in 2018:

DeRozan got through those wobbles. They weren’t easy, though. And they didn’t end immediately after opening up about the things that can ravage his mental health, either. Speaking with Warriors forward Draymond Green on DeRozan’s “Dinner with DeMar” series on YouTube, the six-time All-Star delved into the stressors that proceeded his post, as well as other events that have gnawed away at him at times over the years.

DeRozan didn’t initially plan to make such a vocal statement centering around the fragility of mental health. Rather, it was a result of a feeling that kept him tethered to his bed and away from his loved ones one night six years ago.

“I laid in the bed, it was like eight o’clock, and I just didn’t move,” DeRozan said. “I didn’t have no interest to do nothing, to be around nobody.

“I just didn’t have nothing in me. I felt so exhausted mentally, emotionally and I just laid there. … Locked the door and laid in the room by myself.”

DeRozan grabbed his phone and delivered the tweet before dozing off. The next morning, he was feeling revitalized. Then came the windfall: a tempest of support and concern for DeRozan and his sense of being.

It touched him in immeasurable ways.

“It turned to me just saying ‘F— it, this is how I feel,” DeRozan said. “I didn’t feel weak, I didn’t feel no type of way because in that moment, it took me back to the amount of s— I’ve made it through and went through, I could never be less of a human. I could never be less of a man.

“I was screaming out for help for so long but in all the wrong ways instead of talking to somebody,” DeRozan added. “To see the response from it, it was even more overwhelming in a positive way because it’s like ‘Damn, I had this effect on somebody?’”

DeMar DeRozan talks about the shock of Raptors trade

Trials and tribulations have been a constant throughout DeRozan’s career. He enjoyed his best years in Toronto, only to be traded for Kawhi Leonard in a move that brought the Raptors and NBA title, but deprived it of perhaps its greatest-ever star.

The Toronto trade added to the turmoil going on in DeRozan’s life at the time. He outlined some of the feelings that swelled up when he was shipped from the Raptors to the Spurs during his discussion with Green.

“Knocked me to my f—ing knees,” DeRozan said of his trade to San Antonio. “The feeling that I felt, I can’t even explain it to this day. It put me in an element of search and trying to find myself from a basketball perspective.

“Feeling the doubt creep in, questioning yourself, how much longer this gon’ be, getting caught up in the b— narratives that ‘sports people’ experts want to put out.”

The feeling were only exacerbated by the upheaval that was taking shape in DeRozan’s personal life. His father was on his death bed during the Covid-19 pandemic, adding yet another pitfall to what had been an increasing amount of them over those prior couple of years.

In the end, DeRozan made it out alive. He’s now among one of the most thoughtful minds to speak in basketball. That’s not to mention his impressive play on the floor — where he’s retained All-Star level performances for the 26-29 Bulls.

Still, he won’t forget the days of his greatest battle of that unenviable run in.

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