Ex-Knicks big man Michael Sweetney says he attempted suicide as a rookie

Monday June 12th, 2017

Michael Sweetney has spoken at length since his basketball career ended about his struggles with depression, in part attributing his underwhelming NBA tenure to his mental health issues. But only recently did Sweetney reveal he was hurting so badly as a rookie that he tried to take his own life. 

Sweetney starred at Georgetown, averaging a double-double in his final two college seasons, before being selected by the Knicks with the No. 9 pick in the 2003 draft. Sweetney’s father, who attended all of his college games, died suddenly of a heart attack just before Sweetney was set to begin training camp with the Knicks. Two days after the funeral, he reported to camp. 

The death of his father, combined with his early struggles on the court, sent Sweetney into depression. At one point, his outlook was so dark that he tried to kill himself, Sweetney revealed to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype

“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.”

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Increasingly, Sweetney took solace in food and his weight ballooned. The Knicks traded him to Chicago after just two years in the infamous Eddy Curry deal and he lasted two more years with the Bulls. 

After his NBA career ended in 2007, Sweetney added, he left his family and “was sleeping in parks or cars.”

The now-slimmer Sweetney did get his life back on track, though, and has resumed playing pro basketball. In recent years he has bounced around between numerous Latin American teams, from Puerto Rico, to Venezuela, to Uruguay. He also appeared in the $1 million The Basketball Tournament. His latest stop is in the Big3 3-on-3 league, playing on Allen Iverson’s team, 3’s Company. 

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