The Knicks picked Michael Sweetney with the No. 9 pick in the 2003 NBA draft, but his pro career didn’t get far. He spent just four seasons in the league, getting limited minutes and gaining weight that made it even more difficult to contribute.
Years later, Sweetney opened up about his first few months in the NBA.
Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:
Sweetney was in a very dark place. He was mourning since his father, Samuel, died just before the start of New York’s training camp and he was also battling serious depression. After struggling to find peace and refusing to ask for help out of fear of being judged, he attempted suicide.
“I remember the night,” Sweetney told HoopsHype. “We were in Cleveland one night and I just took a bunch of pain pills, hoping it would take me out. But I woke up the next morning thinking, ‘Well, it didn’t work.’ That’s how bad it was.
“I didn’t like basketball and I just didn’t like life at the time. I went from being a star at Georgetown and having my father at every game, to losing him and not even playing in the NBA. I knew I wasn’t going to be given a chance as a rookie because my coach told me, ‘Hey, I’m not going to play you.’ I had a lot of things going on that were rough for me to handle. I had dug myself into a really deep depression and, at that point, I was really scared to tell anybody. At that time, you had a guy like Ron Artest and people would just say, ‘He’s crazy.’ In reality, he just had some issues that could be resolved. But people were quick to call him crazy and I was suffering from something similar, so I didn’t want to tell anyone. Even after I tried to commit suicide, nobody really knew. I was suffering really bad. I was in New York, battling this while the media was writing articles about me, and I felt like I had nowhere to go. I just kept digging myself into a deeper hole of depression.”
Sweetney, thankfully, appears to be doing better now. So, why share this?
Sweetney, via Kennedy:
“I just really wanted to make my story into a positive. When I go talk to kids, I use my life as an example. I tell them, ‘Google my name. All you’re going to see is a bunch of fat jokes and bad stuff about me. You won’t find anything positive.’ A lot of these kids get cyberbullied, so I try to use myself as an example to help them get through it. I tell them what I went through, show them articles that were written about me and make it clear that everything is going to be okay – even if they don’t understand or believe that right now.
This is awfully brave – and awfully important – thing for Sweetney to do. Hopefully, he succeeds in his mission to inspire others.