Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams has opened up about the toll his father's death and adjusting to life in the US had on him growing up, admitting he wasn't far from going down a completely different path due to the mental battles he faced.
Adams has revealed he had to overcome bouts of depression before cracking the NBA in his new book, My Life, My Fight as young as when he was 13-years-old.
"After my dad died, I didn't have [the fight]," Adams said. "I knew I wanted to do something but I just didn't know what that thing was. And if a purpose hadn't come along soon, I would have started looking for something, anything, to feel a high."
In the book, Adams admits he struggled to find motivation and often skipped school as a result.
"When I think back, I realise that I was actually very lonely and, if I'm honest, probably a little depressed. No one had told us how to cope with grief. We didn't see a counsellor or go to any therapy sessions."
But the 25-year-old found a passion - basketball.
Thanks to mentors and his newfound drive, Adams went on to become a powerhouse on the court, collecting MVP awards at national tournaments until he was noticed by overseas scouts.
It led to him heading to Notre Dame Preparatory School in 2011 but even then, the centre admits he wasn't out of the woods.
"Life off the court was an ongoing series of disappointments," Adams said, describing the school as "an absolute s***hole" and "straight out of a horror movie".
"I did struggle with being alone again and it was hard not to relapse into the depression I had felt after Dad died. I'd gotten used to having a tight-knit community around me, always willing to help out.
"Once I got to Notre Dame and saw how miserable the whole place was, the door to those repressed emotions became unlocked."
But Adams pulled through thanks to the school's coaching stuff until similar issues arose once again when he started playing college basketball for Pittsburgh.
"In those first few months at Pitt, I thought seriously about chucking it all in, quitting America and going home to New Zealand where I was more comfortable. I would say at least half of what I was feeling was in fact homesickness and nothing to do with basketball," Adams said.
"It's not easy being completely alone in a new school as well as a new country. The usual advice to make friends and create a family didn't work for me. I got through it with sheer determination and the knowledge that it wasn't forever. If it would get me to a career in basketball, I was willing to put up with some lonely, painful years.
"The moment I stop enjoying basketball, I'll quit. Things were heading that way when I was at Pitt, and if there was one thing I knew, it was that I had to leave before it ruined the game for me forever."
As a result, Adams declared himself for the 2013 NBA draft where he went as the 12th pick with the Thunder - a move that seems to have saved his career.
"Right now, I'm happy. I have a dream job where I get to do what I love every day. I like my teammates, which is a big bonus. I have my own space where I can relax and have fun. But the main reason I'm happy is because I have my fight."
Where can I get support and help from?
Need to talk? 1737 – Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
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Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 or www.depression.org.nz
The Lowdown: A website to help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety. www.thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626
SPARX.org.nz – Online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed
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