All this week at Fear the Sword, we’re remembering players who have been forgotten in Cleveland Cavaliers history. On Monday, Chris Manning covered Luke Jackson. Tuesday, Zack Geoghegan wrote about J.J. Hickson. Wednesday, Trevor Magnotti discussed all the former Cavaliers that are playing overseas. Yesterday, Carter Rodriguez wrote about Marreese Speights. Today, we’re writing about Delonte West.
Unlike most of the other players covered in this series, when it comes to Delonte West, the question is not do you remember him? Rather, it is how do you remember him?
West played 150 games for the Cavaliers over the course of three seasons from 2008-2010. Cleveland acquired the 6’4” guard in a three-team deal that overhauled the Cavs’ roster at the trade deadline in ‘08. Of the other players brought to the Cavs in that trade (Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak and Joe Smith), West made the largest impact for the Cavaliers.
He provided the Cavs with a serviceable scoring option at the wing, as he posted a 10.3 points per game average and shot 37.8 percent from three-point range in a Cavs’ uniform. The former Saint Joseph’s star also improved the Cavaliers at the defensive end, giving them an eager, gritty defender to throw at opponents’ top perimeter scorers. Additionally, his ball-handling ability made it easy to play him at the point while starting point guard Mo Williams was on the bench. All in all, he was an integral part of a team that posted back-to-back 60-win seasons.
These are not the things that first come to mind when thinking of Delonte West, however. Replays of the game-winner he drilled in the 2008 playoffs do not flash across most people’s minds at the mention of West. Instead, West is most known for his off-court struggles. West, who has not played in the NBA since the 2011-12 season, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. It is unfortunate, but that diagnosis is what defined Delonte West for many people.
In September of 2009, West was pulled over for a traffic stop when police found two guns on West’s person and one in a guitar case worn across his back. The incident—one that many attributed to his mental illness — and the potential impending jail time wore on West. Even though he avoided any incarceration, there was a stigma surrounding West.
West spent most of the 2009-10 season coming off the bench for Cleveland, and despite his contributions to the team, he was dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the offseason after LeBron James left Cleveland to join the Miami Heat. The Wolves waived West before he ever played a game for them, which freed the veteran guard to return to Boston where he played the first three seasons of his career.
West played just in 24 games in the 2010-11 season. The following season, he joined the Mavericks with whom he played in 44 games, averaging 9.6 points per game. That was the last time that West was in the NBA, though it was not the last of his professional basketball career. Since his last NBA appearance, West has had two stints in China and two stints in the D-League as he attempted to make it back to the Association.
After being waived by the Texas Legends in 2015, West was not heard from until he was spotted wandering around a Jack in the Box parking lot shoeless in Houston in February 2016. He was then seen several months later panhandling in Maryland. Many saw this and were concerned that West was now homeless, but he set the record straight, saying that he was actually trying to help a homeless man in his neighborhood.
Now, five years removed from the last time he was on an NBA court, it seems we have seen the last of West as a basketball player. But don’t let that overshadow what West accomplished in his career. At his best, West was a fearless and aggressive guard who was fun to watch. He should be remembered as such.