Lakers' Dion Waiters Talks Depression, LeBron James Guiding Him with Cavs

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2020

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 28:  Dion Waiters #11 of the Miami Heat drives the ball up the court against the Boston Celtics during the first half at American Airlines Arena on January 28, 2020 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In a first-person piece for The Players' Tribune, Los Angeles Lakers guard Dion Waiters spoke about his depression and anxiety over the past year.

"Even the hardest motherf--kers in the world go through depression, man. No cap," Waiters wrote. "You know, I think sometimes the world needs to be reminded that we're not superheroes. I came from the bottom. I seen it all. But when I go home at night, I'm just like you. I go through depression, just like you. I go through anxiety, just like you. This last year and a half, I done been through it."

Waiters said much of his falling-out with the Miami Heat resulted from his depression. He attributed the weed-induced panic attack he reportedly had on the team plane in November, which resulted in a 10-game suspension, to the "dark times" he was going through.

"The plane incident in Miami? It's on me. I own that. It was idiotic on my behalf—point-blank, period," Waiters wrote. "What's crazy is, my whole life I been a leader. I'm not a follower. [Miami Heat president Pat Riley] knows me. He knows I don't do drugs. But sometimes when you're going through dark times, you can fall trap to things you'd never do in your right mind."

Waiters described his depression as "fake happiness." He said he would lie to his friends, family and even to himself about how he was feeling, saying he stayed away from his phone to avoid seeing what the public was saying about him.

The Heat suspended Waiters for a total of 17 games during the regular season—10 for the plane incident, six for lying about being sick to skip practice and one game for conduct detrimental to the team—before trading him to the Memphis Grizzlies in February. Memphis immediately waived Waiters, and he signed with the Lakers on March 6.

Waiters never made his debut for L.A. because the NBA season was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic soon after he arrived. The deal reunited Waiters with LeBron James, with whom he played for half a season in Cleveland before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015.

"I ain't gonna lie to you. Back then, in those Cleveland days? I was still a kid, too. A dumbass kid, trying to figure it out," Waiters wrote of his relationship with James. "Bron used to show me different wines, different kinds of food. I was Philly Philly. I was raw. But Bron took me under his wing—and now all these years later, here we are again. Less hair, more wisdom. Life is crazy, right? Damn."

Waiters struggled mightily during his brief run as LeBron's teammate, averaging 10.5 points and 2.2 assists on 40.4 percent shooting, lowlighted by a career-low 25.6 percent rate from beyond the arc. He was the rare player who somehow got worse as a shooter with LeBron feeding him the ball. 

There was also that whole incident where Waiters nearly threw a tantrum on the floor when James did not pass him the ball on the perimeter.

Waiters clearly sees himself as a person and player who has evolved since that 33-game stint, though the jury is still out on whether he can be effective. After performing admirably and being rewarded with a four-year, $52 million contract, Waiters fell out of favor and struggled to stay on the floor once he signed the deal.