Kiwi basketballer Steven Adams has revealed his long struggle with depression nearly ended his career before it began.
In his autobiography Steven Adams: My Life, My Fight, the Oklahoma City Thunder centre opens up about his off-court battle in his quest to becoming a basketball star.
It started when Adams was 13 after his dad Sid passed away. But the seven-footer continued to battle mental illness during his time in the US as he struggled with loneliness and homesickness.
"After my dad died, I didn't have [the fight]," says Adams. "I knew I wanted to do something, but I just didn't know what that thing was. And if a purpose hadn't come along soon, I would have started looking for something, anything, to feel a high.
"When I think back, I realise that I was actually very lonely and, if I'm honest, probably a little depressed. No one had told us how to cope with grief. We didn't see a counsellor or go to any therapy sessions."
That was when basketball gave Adams a purpose. His mentors and support group helped the now 25-year-old improve his game and grow into a talented player.
Adams was that busy with basketball commitments; he said he "never given me the time to sink into self-pity".
But that changed when he went to the US, firstly at Notre Dame Prep school, and then at the University of Pittsburgh.
It was so bad, that he considered chucking in the towel and giving up on the dream of being an NBA player. But it was the drive to be an NBA player which kept him going.
"In those first few months at Pitt, I thought seriously about chucking it all in, quitting America and going home to New Zealand where I was more comfortable," says Adams. "I would say at least half of what I was feeling was, in fact, homesickness and nothing to do with basketball.
"It's not easy being completely alone in a new school as well as a new country. The usual advice to make friends and create a family didn't work for me. I got through it with sheer determination and the knowledge that it wasn't forever. If it would get me to a career in basketball, I was willing to put up with some lonely, painful years.
"The moment I stop enjoying basketball, I'll quit. Things were heading that way when I was at Pitt, and if there was one thing I knew, it was that I had to leave before it ruined the game for me forever."
After one year with the Panthers, Adams entered the 2013 NBA draft where was taken with the 13th pick by the Thunder. Now is one of the league's premier centres and is on a four-year NZ$142.3m deal.
"Right now, I'm happy. I have a dream job where I get to do what I love every day. I like my teammates, which is a big bonus. I have my own space where I can relax and have fun. But the main reason I'm happy is because I have my fight."
Adams is currently in New Zealand, and on Friday did a gym session with Blackcaps bowler Trent Boult.
Boult is taking part in the upcoming Steven Adams golf invitational Windross Farm on August 17.
"It was cool to catch up with him," said Boult in an Instagram post. "All the guys in the gym were pretty pumped to train alongside him."
The official release of the book is on Monday, but copies have been seen on sale at some stores.
Where to find help and support:
- 'Need to Talk' Call or text 1737
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Healthline: 0800 611 116
- Samaritans: 0800 726 666
- Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757
- Mental Health Foundation