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Steven Adams has revealed how he had to overcome bouts of depression on his long and winding path to the NBA.
In his autobiography Steven Adams: My Life, My Fight, released on Monday, the Kiwi basketball star opened up on his struggles off the court during his quest to reach the world's biggest basketball league.
Adams divulges that he battled depression on his path to the NBA, with loneliness and homesickness proving obstacles in the way of realising his dream.
The first instance came after his dad Sid died, when Adams was 13. Adams lapsed into bad habits - not going to school and finding himself without a purpose.
"After my dad died, I didn't have [the fight]," says Adams. "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.
"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."
That was when basketball gave Adams a purpose, and his determination and passion saw him supported by a slew of mentors as he improved rapidly. He thrived off that support, turning into a prodigious talent who started to win national tournaments and MVP awards.
That talent and drive saw him progress all the way to playing in the United States but Adams acknowledges he initially struggled to acclimatise when playing one semester at Notre Dame Preparatory School in 2011.
"Life off the court was an ongoing series of disappointments," says Adams, describing the school as "an absolute shithole" 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.
"For me, the trick to fighting thoughts of loneliness has always been to find a routine. I had a packed routine the whole time I was in Wellington and it had never given me the time to sink into self-pity.
"Once I got to Notre Dame and saw how miserable the whole place was, the door to those repressed emotions became unlocked."
Adams overcame that battle, with help from a member of the Notre Dame coaching staff, but soon ran into the same problem in his year at college in Pittsburgh, where he considered giving up on his American dream.
"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," says Adams.
"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."
Adams did leave after his solitary season and it proved the right decision, being drafted 12th by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2013 NBA draft and turning into one of the league's premier centres.
Adams says his fighting spirit has seen him overcome the obstacles and reach the pinnacle of basketball.
"If I wake up one day and don't have that fight to keep getting better, things will go downhill quickly. It sounds grim but it's fairly simple - the only thing keeping me alive is that constant fight, no matter what it is. As soon as I stop chasing something, that means I've given up.
"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 to get help
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider.
However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 ,free text 234 or email email@example.com or online chat.
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
• SAMARITANS – 0800 726 666.
- NZ Herald