Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan opens up on his battle with depression

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Dan Devine
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Even as a four-time All-Star with a nine-figure contract, DeMar DeRozan isn't immune from feeling depressed. (AP)
Even as a four-time All-Star with a nine-figure contract, DeMar DeRozan isn’t immune from feeling depressed. (AP)

In the wee hours of Feb. 17 — two Saturdays ago, before All-Star Saturday Night in Los Angeles and the 2018 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center — Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan wrote a tweet that caused a stir:

The line might have only been a reference to a song — “Tomorrow” by Kevin Gates, for the record — but it still sparked curiosity, concern and an outpouring of support for the four-time All-Star, who has risen from the no-joke streets of Compton to become one of the world’s best basketball players.

DeRozan inked a five-year, $139 million maximum-salaried contract in the summer of 2016, and followed it up by making his first All-NBA team last season. He has arguably turned in an even more impressive campaign this year, evolving as a player by scoring a bit less and facilitating a lot more for a Raptors team that sits atop the Eastern Conference and believes it has a legitimate shot to make the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Even if all’s going well on the court, though, we rarely get a full picture of what’s going on in athletes’ lives. The tweet made many wonder: could DeRozan be fighting a more daunting battle away from the game than he sees under the bright lights night after night?

As it turns out: yes.

The 28-year-old swingman spoke at length with Doug Smith of the Toronto Star about “those struggles — those times of depression, anxiety, loneliness [that] are his demons to deal with” in an enlightening interview:

“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day,” [DeRozan] said. “We all got feelings … all of that. Sometimes … it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.” […]

“I always have various nights,” he said in a wide-ranging and wildly open glimpse into his private life. “I’ve always been like that since I was young, but I think that’s where my demeanour comes from.

“I’m so quiet, if you don’t know me. I stay standoffish in a sense, in my own personal space, to be able to cope with whatever it is you’ve got to cope with.”

Figuring out how to cope — finding a path clear of what might depress, anger or debilitate you — isn’t easy. Some people never get to the other side. Many others stumble along the way, and even those who have found some means of managing the peaks and valleys of their mental health and emotional well-being will have days and nights where they struggle to do that. It happens, to a lot of us, whether or not everyone knows it.

“My mom always told me: Never make fun of anybody,” DeRozan told Smith, “because you never know what that person is going through.”

Now, thanks to a surprising late-night tweet and the courage to have a conversation about it, we’ve got some sense of what DeMar DeRozan is going through. Hopefully, that’ll help some people who might be going through it, too, realize that they’re not alone, and find the strength to keep on going.

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Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@oath.com or follow him on Twitter!