Former NBA Star Ben Gordon Opens Up About Struggling with Suicidal Thoughts in Powerful Essay

In an essay published in The Player's Tribune, Ben Gordon said he struggled with his mental health after retiring from the NBA

Ben Gordon
Photo: Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Former NBA star Ben Gordon wrote a moving essay this week that gave an intimate look into his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts after his retirement.

Throughout his 11 years in the league, Gordon served as a standout player on a number of teams, including the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic. But the 36-year-old struggled toward the latter half of his career and saw himself traded and waived by multiple teams until no other franchise expressed interest in his services.

Just like that, Gordon saw his career come to an unceremonious end.

“There was a point in time when I thought about killing myself every single day for about six weeks,” Gordon said in his essay, which was published in The Player’s Tribune on Thursday.

“I would be up on the roof of my apartment building at four o’clock in the morning, just pacing to the edge of the ledge, looking over—pacing back and forth, back and forth — just thinking, I’m really about to do it, B,” he recalled. “I’m about to escape from all this s—.”

After his last year in the league, Gordon lived in Harlem and tried to cope with the reality that his playing career was now behind him. Soon, he fell into a “manic-depressive” state and stopped eating and drinking. Instead, he focused on finding a way to take his own life.

Ben Gordon
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“I had lost my career, my identity, and my family all pretty much simultaneously,” Gordon said. “I was manic-depressive. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping.”

Gordon, who was born in England, explained that his mental health suffered to the point he didn’t feel alive anymore.

“I didn’t know what the hell was wrong with me,” he said. “I had never talked to a therapist in my life. The only explanation for the pain I was feeling was — Biblical. Like I had died somehow, and I was stuck somewhere between heaven and hell.”

These thoughts are what drove him to find an “escape” through suicide, Gordon wrote.

After multiple arrests in 2017, Gordon sought help and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an illness of the brain that causes extreme changes in mood and energy levels, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Patients will often experience intense emotions as well as disruption to sleep patterns and their ability to think clearly.

These periods can last for an extended time — days or even weeks — with no clear way of predicting when one period will end and another will begin. This can cause patients to have difficulty at work, school or in maintaining their relationships.

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Therapy helped Gordon realize that it was okay to be “different,” and now he wants to help others — including NBA players — find relief with their mental health.

“The goal doesn’t have to be perfection. It can just be peace and acceptance with yourself,” he wrote. “ But the whole reason I’m telling you my story is because I know — I know — there’s players out there who need help.”

“You’re not damaged,” he added. “You’re just human like the rest of us. ”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to

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