Delonte West is a professional basketball player who has played for a number of NBA basketball teams, including the Boston Celtics, the Seattle SuperSonics, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Dallas Mavericks. (1) After his departure from the NBA in 2012, he spent some time at the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League before signing with the Fujian Xunxing of the Chinese Basketball Association, the Los Angeles Clippers for the 2014 NBA Summer League, the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association, and then the Guaros de Lara of the Liga Profesional de Baloncesto. In 2015, he returned to the Texas Legends but was soon waived when he suffered a season-ending injury.
What Happened to Delonte West?
On June 26 of 2016, West was spotted on a street corner in the state of Maryland, where he seems to have been pan handling. (2) As a result, a rumor started that he was homeless, which built a fair amount of momentum from the fact that West is known to have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but has also seen the fit to dispute the diagnosis for whatever reason of his own. This is not helped by the fact that former NBA players as well as their counterparts in other professional sports leagues have much higher-than-normal bankruptcy rates, which have resulted in a number of headline stories in relatively recent times.
However, it is important to note that West’s homelessness is no more than a rumor at the moment, meaning that interested individuals should not give it too much credence. Furthermore, the man has stated on social media that he was not homeless but instead helping out a homeless man who was paralyzed from the neck down.
Is This a Common Problem?
Whatever the truth of West’s situation, bankruptcy as well as the host of problems associated with bankruptcy are a common problem for former NBA players and their counterparts in other professional sports leagues, so much so that Sports Illustrated has claimed that an astonishing 60 percent of all former NBA players will go bankrupt after they leave the league. (3) This is because said individuals tend to share a number of common characteristics that increase their chances of spending more than what they are bringing in as well as a number of common needs that increase their chances of being exploited by people that they should have been able to trust.
First and foremost, when professional athletes manage to reach the top of their profession by signing a contract with a major league team, they tend to start spending lots and lots of that money within a short period of time. Sometimes, they spend that money to buy nice cars, nice homes, and other luxuries for themselves. Other times, they spent that money on the people who matter to them, whether by helping them with their necessities or by providing them with luxuries as well. Regardless, spending patterns are habit-building, meaning that said individuals find it challenging all of a sudden to stop spending as much when they retire, which is also when most of their streams of revenue dry up into trickles of revenue. As a result, the overspending of former professional athletes is combined with a much shorter earning period than most of the other high-income earners out there, thus making a serious problem that much more so in the process.
Second, professional athletes recognize this problem, which is why most of them will sink a sizable percentage of their earnings into an investment portfolio that is intended to provide them with the regular income needed to last them the rest of their lives. However, most of them have neither the time nor the expertise nor the experience needed to manage such portfolios on their own, which is why they are like most people in that they tend to entrust their portfolios to someone that they feel that they can trust to look after their financial interests. Unfortunately, most of them run into two problems at this point. First, their willingness to spend combined with their need for high income makes them susceptible to people pitching high-risk, high-reward investment opportunities, which are often little more than polite pretenses painted on top of financial scams. Second, their lack of interest in their portfolios makes it possible for the people entrusted with their portfolios to take advantage of them, which is something that happens more often than most people would like to admit. These problems are compounded by the fact that they are also well-known meaning that a lot of malicious individuals like to seek out professional athletes for their malicious purposes.
In West’s case, there is another factor in that he is known to have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. While it is manageable, it is still a mental health problem, which tends to be associated with homelessness in the minds of most people. After all, mental health problems are one of the most common reasons for homelessness, both because they compromise the sufferers’ ability to manage on their own and because they cause sufferers to withdraw from all of the people who could help them with their problems. (4) Something that is particularly disheartening because homelessness tends to exacerbate mental health problems, thus making it more and more difficult for the homeless to extract themselves from their condition.
At the moment, there is no real way to tell whether West is homeless or not since there is next-to-no evidence for either side. However, since the man has stated that he is not homeless but was instead helping a homeless person, he should be given the benefit of the doubt until more information surfaces, assuming that more information will ever surface. Still, this case has once again highlighted the financial problems that are associated with too high a percentage of former professional athletes, which are so serious that the relevant institutions have started all sorts of initiatives in order to combat them. Whether these initiatives will be successful or not remains to be seen as well, but considering that professional athletes have well-known problems with well-known solutions, the chances seem to be good that they will be more helpful than not.