In a raw and unfiltered piece for the Players’ Tribune, Dion Waiters addresses eating a marijuana-infused edible on the Miami Heat team plane, his struggles with depression and the impact that LeBron James had on his life.
“The plane incident in Miami? It’s on me. I own that,” Waiters wrote as part of a new series in which players share 24 truths about themselves in honor of Kobe Bryant. “It was idiotic on my behalf — point-blank, period. What’s crazy is, my whole life I been a leader. I’m not a follower. [Miami Heat president] Pat [Riley] knows me. He knows I don’t do drugs. But sometimes when you’re going through dark times, you can fall trap to things you’d never do in your right mind.”
Waiters served three separate suspensions with the Heat this season, including one for that incident. The Heat traded Waiters to the Memphis Grizzlies in February and the Grizzlies waived him a few days later. The Lakers then signed him on March 6, five days before the NBA was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Waiters said he had an honest conversation with his son about the plane incident.
“I can never lie to my son,” Waiters wrote. “He’s six going on damn near 30. He’s on Google all day, typing my name. So when I got suspended, he was interrogating me like, ‘Dad, they said you were doing drugs. They said you had a seizure. They said you can’t play no more. What’s going on?’
“I had to break it down for him in a way he could understand, like in his little cartoon movies. I said, ‘You know how there’s always a beginning, a middle and an end? In the beginning, it’s all good, right? Spider-Man is doing his thing. He’s discovering his superpowers. He’s chillin’. But in the middle, what happens? The hero always messes up. He gets knocked in the dirt. There’s always a sad part, right? Well, that’s where your dad’s been at. He made a mistake. He lost his superpowers for a minute. But it’s gonna be alright. We’re gonna make it through.'”
Waiters also wanted to clear up an inaccuracy.
“I never had a seizure, though,” Waiters wrote. “Ask the doctors. Ask my Heat teammates. They can speak on it. For that b.s. to come out, it ain’t right. I made a mistake, but for someone to leak that, and for my family to hear it? Shit. It ain’t right.”
Waiters, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, played alongside LeBron James for 33 games during the 2014-2015 season before being traded to Oklahoma City.
Waiters said that when he landed on his feet and joined the Lakers, there was one person who was even more excited than him.
“When my son found out I was going to the Lakers, he went bananas,” Waiters wrote. “Buh-nanas, bro. He’s known Bron since he was a baby, when we were in Cleveland. That’s his guy.”
Waiters said that James was a mentor to him when they played together.
“I ain’t gonna lie to you,” Waiters wrote. “Back then, in those Cleveland days? I was still a kid, too. A dumbass kid, trying to figure it out. Bron used to show me different wines, different kinds of food. I was Philly Philly. I was raw. But Bron took me under his wing — and now all these years later, here we are again. Less hair, more wisdom. Life is crazy, right? Damn.”
Waiters also discussed his struggles with depression, saying, “I came from the bottom. I seen it all. But when I go home at night, I’m just like you. I go through depression, just like you. I go through anxiety, just like you. This last year and a half, I done been through it.”
He said he doesn’t sleep, something that began when he was a child who would wait up at night to make sure that his mother arrived home safely.
“I was eight when my dad got shot,” Waiters wrote. “Twelve when my mom got shot. Best friend murdered. Brother murdered. I got homies who got killed who I don’t even talk about. If anybody in this world been through it, I been through it. I done really been through it. Really lived it. Ain’t no fiction. But I’m still here.”
Waiters, 28, has career averages of 13.2 points on 41.2 percent shooting, 2.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists over eight seasons in the league.
He revealed that he played for a year and a half on a broken foot in Miami before having a surgery in 2018 that kept him sidelined for a year.
“It was surgery or insoles, man,” Waiters said. “I picked the insoles because I was trying to get us to the playoffs. We knew what it was. I sacrificed my body for the Miami Heat, and I’d do it again. Hell yeah, I’d do it again. But my body just broke down to the point where I could only do so much in a day. Then I couldn’t keep the weight off no matter how much I tried. And then we all know what comes after that: ‘Dion’s fat. Dion’s out of shape. Dion don’t care.'”
Waiters said any NBA player who says he doesn’t read criticism or let it affect him is lying.
He said when he’s down, the one thing that makes him feel better is his family. That and drinking a gallon of water.
“When your mental health is a problem, the solution is right there,” Waiters said. “You gotta turn to the people who love you. I mean really love you. Not the fake love. I’m talking about FAMILY. Sometimes I’d be lying in bed, feeling like trash. And my daughter Dior runs in, seven o’clock in the morning like, “Daaaaaaddd, get upppppp! Aaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!” Jumping on me, hugging me. And it’s like … damn. I ain’t have that as a kid, you know? That feeling fixes you up for a minute.”