Will Jabari Bird get the help he clearly needs?
BRIGHTON – Jabari Bird likely will never play for the Celtics again, yet that’s the least important development from the disheartening and stunning details of his alleged assault, strangulation and kidnapping of a girlfriend on Friday.
Bird, who recently signed a guaranteed contract for next season after a year on a two-way contract, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and posted a $50,000 cash bail before leaving Brighton District Court Thursday.
The details from the police report are ghastly. Bird is accused of choking his girlfriend in his Brighton apartment 12 times, once to the point of her losing consciousness before he kicked her. Bird then, according to the report, collapsed and began having “seizure-like” symptoms on the floor. The girlfriend then helped Bird onto a bed, where he fell asleep. She then left the apartment, went back to her college and filed a police report.
Since his arrest Friday night, Bird has been hospitalized for unspecified “evaluation.” The police report said he texted his girlfriend threatening to kill himself if she did not come back. Celtics trainer Art Horne apparently received a screen-shot of the text from the girlfriend and then went to Bird’s apartment to check on him and called 911.
Bird was the team’s 15th man. His journey was briefly a feel-good story because he was the 58th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft before earning an NBA contract after a year of tutelage in the G League.
All appeared to be fine with Bird. He played well in the Las Vegas Summer League. He finally received a guaranteed NBA deal and had fulfilled his dream.
But obviously all wasn’t fine. According to team sources, Bird suffered from panic attacks throughout the season. It is uncertain whether he was receiving mental health treatment, something the NBA and NBA Players Association has emphasized since players such as Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan admitted to struggling with anxiety and depression during their careers.
Bird released a statement saying he was going to leave basketball and focus on his mental health and the case.
The Celtics weren’t going to let him around the team, anyway. They plan on letting the NBA handle the issue and perhaps release him from his contract if it is discovered that Bird violated the conditions of the contract and the collective bargaining agreement. Until then, the Celtics will wait to see how the case develops.
For Bird, it’s obvious that he has major issues to address. Domestic violence is extremely serious and the thoughts of all of us should go first to the victim, who, according to the report, cared for Bird during his anxiety attack even after she had been beaten.
Bird has a bright smile. He was polite with the media. He never had an issue while in college at California. Those who know him are shocked that this happened. But something evidently wasn’t right and it’s up to the NBA to begin mandatory mental health screenings for all players, even the ones who appear to have not a care in the world, even the ones who seem to have it all: money and fame.
If the police report is correct, something caused Bird to snap, to lose his common sense and disregard his career, his freedom and his reputation for the sake of violence against a woman. Bird needs help. He needs discipline and he needs a life change. Basketball should be his last priority because when he made it his first priority, the rest of his priorities suffered.
We can’t assume anything. We can’t assume that young men who are rich and successful don’t face mental health issues, that they don’t deal with insecurities, family problems and anger issues.
It’s no longer a taboo for those who are the best looking or most accomplished or the most adored to admit they’re dealing with mental health issues.
Being proactive when dealing with mental health struggles is key. No one in the Celtics organization could have predicted what happened Friday and the team’s statement correctly showed sympathy and compassion for the victim above anything else. Her well-being is the most important concern from this incident, but the question is what happens with Bird?
Does Jabari get the necessary help? Does he understand and address his issues and fully comprehend his transgressions? Or does he serve his punishment, return to basketball, thinking that concentrating on ball will cure his ills? It’s apparent that basketball wasn’t helping Jabari as much as he led us to believe.
It’s time Jabari concentrate on getting well, getting help, serving his punishment and finding inner peace.