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How Keyon Dooling Ended Up In A Mental Hospital

Illustration for article titled How Keyon Dooling Ended Up In A Mental Hospital

In November, David Aldridge wrote about the nervous breakdown Keyon Dooling suffered after he abruptly retired from the NBA just before the season. At 32, Dooling could have played another a few years and made a lot more money on a good Celtics team that was happy to have him; instead, feeling unlike himself, he took leave of the NBA. Around what would have been the beginning of his season, Dooling found himself briefly institutionalized:

He took this time in his life to make a checklist.

One, he was in a mental hospital.

Two, he didn't know how he got there.

"It was like hell," Keyon Dooling is saying, from the safety of a chair in his home. "If you're not a person that needs to be in a mental institution, it's no place for you. In my opinion, if that's hell here on earth, I don't want to see it in the next life."

The week before the family moved back up north to Boston to get ready for the season, Natosha began noticing her husband acting erratically. He began having hallucinations.

"I didn't know what it was, but I knew it wasn't good," she said. "Just weird stuff that he would say, or do. I was just like, 'Hmm, what's going on? Is he OK?' I even called his momma at one point, but she really couldn't give me any answers. I knew something was wrong. Actually, I just stayed on my knees. I was just praying. That's all I know to do, just go before the Lord."

Dooling was exhibiting behaviors familiar to soldiers returning from war zones. But Post Traumatic Stress Disorders aren't limited to those who fight in wars. Police officers, firefighters, anyone subject to a severe emotional episode can suffer from PTSD. Dooling's problems came to a head in August.

He was at home, playing in the street in front of his home with his kids. A neighbor thought he was playing too roughly with the kids and called the police.


Now, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has written a story about Keyon Dooling's retirement, and the fact that his time away from basketball allowed memories of sexual abuse to surface after years of repression:

"You block things out," he says of why he now is addressing his demons, telling his story. "When you block things out at such a young age, you really block it out. I'm learning the science of it now. I'm understanding the different chemical imbalances you have when you have something so traumatic happen to you."

The trauma was profound, incomprehensible, horrendous.

"A gentlemen touched me," he says of the encounter.

He was 5, but trying to act older, as he says so many others at that time in his Sistrunk Boulevard neighborhood were.

There was an invitation to watch pornography from a teenage friend of a relative. He wound up being coaxed into performing oral sex. That was the start.

"When it happened so young," he says, "you could think it was routine."

Eventually he began smoking, drinking, "becoming sexually active at a very young age."

Dooling talked about his abuse on Katie Couric's talk show, advocating for Jerry Sandusky's victims and extolling their courage in coming forward. He's now working as a consultant with the Celtics and attending regular therapy sessions. If for no other reason, it's worth clicking over for a lesson in how headcases and malingerers can be miscast as villains in sports. In retrospect, the Keyon Dooling-Ray Allen fight of 2006—memorable at the time for having spilled into the stands and led to a hallway confrontation—was less the result of pure irresponsibility (if there is such a thing) than, as Dooling describes it now, the product of pent-up and misdirected anger. We're sure someone called him a loose-cannon thug for it anyway, though.

Ex-NBA Player Keyon Dooling Speaks Out About His Sexual Abuse As A Child [Miami Sun-Sentinel]