DeMar DeRozan, Becoming the Veteran Leader of the Chicago Bulls, and the Importance of Mental Health

When you look at DeMar DeRozan on the court, he seems like one of the most loving and even-keeled people you might ever meet. As Bulls fans, we’ve watched him hit not one, but two game-winning buzzer-beaters this season, and the 32-year-old veteran was the calmest person in the arena on both nights.

Yes, yes, we’ve seen DeRozan get fired up from time to time, as any athlete does, but we’ve seen many more instances of him calmly finding his shot and helping the Bulls to 30 wins in their first 47 games. And we’ve seen many more instances of DeRozan’s infectious love for his teammates this season, frequently observing the stoic guard physically embrace his teammates as a sign of affection. Heck, we even saw DeRozan drive to Champaign, IL just to watch rookie teammate Ayo Dosunmu’s jersey number hit the rafters at the State Farm Center at the University of Illinois.

In a recent sit down with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks, Rooks said to DeRozan that anyone she has ever spoken to regarding DeRozan has referred to DeRozan and the kindest person they’ve ever met. From humble beginnings growing up in Compton to becoming a superstar in the NBA, DeMar DeRozan has seen it all. But DeRozan is just like you and me in that he’s a human being, and while he loves his time in Chicago, he wasn’t always this happy.

DeRozan has been open in the past about his mental health. You probably remember the attention that this tweet got during the All-Star break in 2018 when DeRozan was up late one night struggling with his thoughts during the break.

DeRozan has often been open about his mental health and the importance of mental health since that tweet (a tweet that DeMar initially regretted sending). DeRozan told Rooks in a June 2019 interview at B/R that he selfishly used Twitter to vent about his struggles at the moment, but in hindsight, it allowed him to address the things that he was dealing with with head-on.

It also gave others dealing with the same issues the courage to speak up and seek help.

Kevin Love said that DeRozan’s public comments about depression “opened a door for me at a time [he] needed it the most.” Love noted that DeRozan “helped [him] out of the darkness.”

I know from personal experience that silence is not your friend when you’re dealing with depression. Identifying it and being open about it is crucial. DeRozan’s courage to speak on a taboo subject that he was dealing with helped Kevin Love, and I know that it helped many others that will never have the opportunity to thank him. DeRozan credits his two daughters for being his reason to power through his bouts with depression, but it was DeRozan’s courage that helped Kevin Love and many others.

But as it goes with depression and mental health, it wasn’t a one-time thing for DeRozan. After being traded from the Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs and then watching the Raptors go the NBA Finals and win a championship ring without him the following season, DeMar DeRozan wasn’t having much fun playing basketball anymore. In that June 2019 interview with Rooks at B/R, DeRozan said that while he was happy for his best friend Kyle Lowry and the rest of the Raptors, he was hurt when he was traded and felt like a “sacrificial lamb,” that the Raptors front office felt like they needed after years of not being able to get over the hump with DeRozan in town.

In a recent interview with DeRozan, Rooks asked DeRozan to describe the chapter in his life when they last spoke in the summer of 2019 with a title.

Growth.

That’s what DeRozan called that chapter of his life.

“I was in a tricky place mentally and emotionally,” DeRozan to Rooks. “Dealing with being traded, going to a new situation; it’s just like everything started to move fast but more slow at the same time.

As for now, DeRozan is feeling pretty good about life and basketball, but he acknowledges that the years that led to this helped him learn how to be a happier person.

“I was able to stop taking everything so negatively and start learning and growing from it,” DeRozan said. “Look where I’m at now.”

Playing in Chicago this season, DeRozan has experienced a renaissance of sorts in his 13 year NBA career. DeRozan is averaging 26 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game and has emerged as the leader of a hot up-and-coming Chicago Bulls team with championship expectations. On Thursday, DeRozan was named a starter in next month’s NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland, his fifth All-Star Game appearance.

Now, as the veteran presence in a locker room full of younger players, DeRozan is loving the decision to come to Chicago, even if it makes him feel a bit old. DeRozan said that he referred to the movie ‘300’ during a game this season to Patrick Williams, only to realize that the 20-year-old forward had never seen it. DeRozan credits the youthfulness of this Bulls roster helps him as much as he helps them, telling Rooks that he uses tapping into his childhood and things that he enjoyed as a kid like cartoons, specifically ‘The Simpsons’ as a way to escape any negative thoughts or feelings he might be experiencing.

On the court, DeRozan says that the move to Chicago has been a blessing for him on and off the court.

“I love the challenge,” DeRozan said. “That was my whole reason for coming here, to take the challenge. As a competitor, you want those things.”

DeRozan also laughed off the widely talked about concern over what his fit would be like with the Bulls.

“I love it. As a competitor, you hear it, and you laugh at it, but you know the preparation that you’re putting in to prove everyone wrong.”

DeRozan returns to San Antonio tonight with the Bulls, but he’s in a much better place than in previous years. He’s feeling good both on and off the court, and the Bulls are looking to make noise in the playoffs in a few months. While the Bulls have established themselves as a legitimate contender this season, DeRozan says that the Bulls, “in [his] mind, haven’t proved anything yet.”

As for what DeRozan has proven to himself through his experiences and his arrival in Chicago:

“I’ve proven to myself that I can be happy again playing basketball.”

You can watch Taylor Rooks’ complete interview with DeMar DeRozan here:


If you or someone you know is having mental health or depression issues, be sure to reach out (or help them reach out) and speak with someone. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or emergency, dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, text MHA to 741741, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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