The fourth wall has been shattered in the world of Delonte West.
When the enigmatic West was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, media access was limited at best. Access was given to nearly every player during pre- and post-game sessions – LeBron James’ were scheduled, of course – but there was always an unwritten rule of sorts: just let Delonte be Delonte. Whether it were in front of his Flip Mino while waiting in line at KFC or just before tip-off where he would chase a bowl of Top Shelf Ramen with a 5-Hour Energy drink, speaking to himself in the sentence structure that had made him a bit of a cult hero in years’ past, West was a one-man band.
I could be five feet from the player who to this day was one of the best wing defenders to play within Mike Brown’s system during his tenure the team, but his lore would only live within a iLTHY t-shirt which was neatly tucked in a dresser drawer 15 miles away. There was always a sense of having to watch from afar, whether on the court or behind the scenes as there were always at least one man in a suit – usually carrying a brief case – waiting in the hallway outside of the team’s locker room, likely keeping the player abreast of his recent legal woes. Now, in a piece penned by Tzvi Twersky for SLAM Magazine, we get an unfiltered – and downright amazingly written – look at the trials (no pun intended) and tribulations rife within West’s World.
Titled “The Real Mr. West,” potentially laced with homage to Kanye’s Late Registration, Twersky’s feature is not only one that this author would have given his right arm to have the fortune to produce, but also one which delves into the mysterious and dark and twisted world in which West lives day to day; the questionable decision-making and the inner-battles of a man with clinically diagnosed bipolar disorder. It shed’s light not only one West’s character, but also some on the fateful night which occurred almost two years ago to the day – the night where West was arrested for driving recklessly on three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder amidst the Washington DC beltway, a night where he just so happened to be armed with a litany of weapons which would make Rambo blush.
Delonte West is an avid outdoorsman, likes to hunt and fish in the backwoods of Virginia, but that’s not really why he owned the guns. Like many nouveau riche athletes, he had hammers because he could afford them. The same way money buys cars and clothes and comfort, it also buys guns. It’s the American way.
After the ’09 season ended with his Cavaliers getting knocked out by the Orlando Magic in the Conference Finals, West returned home to Maryland and set about finding a good place to store the weapons, which he saw more as collector’s items. He chose the recording studio.
Tucked away in his fully finished basement, West’s studio is his sanctuary. Off limits to children, the sparsely furnished wood paneled room is his home within his home. All of that’s why he thought it was the perfect stash spot. Everything was fine—the guns remained safely hidden—until, on the night of September 17, feeling unusually tired, West went to his bedroom pretty early, took his nightly dose of Seroquel (a drug that treats bipolar disorder) and got in bed. Shortly after falling asleep, he was startled awake by shouting.
“Ma Dukes came running upstairs into my room, cursing me, saying she wanted all these MFers out of my house,” recalls West. “I came to like, What’s going on? I was already on my Seroquel trip. A few of my cats had found some stuff in the studio and they were living the whole gangsta life thing—guns in the air and this and that,” continues West. “And I said, ‘Oh my God. What the fuck are y’all doin’ in here? Y’all got to go. Momma ain’t on that. Kids are running around upstairs. It’s time to go.’”
Gassed up from the commotion, West decided it would be prudent for him to relocate the guns to an empty house he owned nearby. So, with his other vehicles blocked in by guests’ cars, and expecting it to be a short trip, he haphazardly loaded up his Can-Am and placed the weapons in a Velcro-type of bag—“not a desperado, hardcase, gun-shooting-out-the-side type case”—and set off.
The rest, as they say, is history. But it is also vividly depicted by West, a passage which I urge all Cavalier fans to read. Twice.
Delonte is now fresh off an eight-month marriage with house arrest, one which was laced with curfew and GPS monitoring; West even went as far as to playfully blame his confinement for his inability to obtain a basketball playing job overseas – all the rage with many of his peers. He would instead opt for an application to the neighborhood Home Depot.
Donning hair that can best be described as reddish, having gone to the tattoo parlor enough times to make him look like a walking, talking coloring book – and now with the rap sheet of gun-toting maniac – and having a dialect and lingo all to himself, it is easy to see how West can be categorized as a thug or miscreant. But if this piece, with West finally opening up to a member of the media, is any sign, it is that of a man who lives with an emotionally damaging disorder but wants, more than anything, to live like those who surround him.
He wants the game-winning shot to feel like the on-court heroic act that it is; he wants to not only own his condition, but help those who also suffer as he does.
It was the Cleveland Cavaliers, during a period of considerable consternation with a player who was missing games for reasons unknown, who would ultimately go public with West’s illness. But it was also the Cavaliers who stood by the troubled player for the good part of two years, shielding him from those who could potentially catch him on a bad day and lead to a meltdown beyond his control, allowing him to just be.
West is now a free agent. When this lockout is over, he hopes to secure a multi-year contract and get back to the days when he was known more for making life difficult for an opposing shooting guard while slashing to the basket with serpentine ease rather that today, where West classifies himself as “the boogieman.”