Inside an Athlete's Head: DeRozan discusses mental struggles, frustrations

DeMar DeRozan stars in the Season 2 premiere of the CBC’s Inside an Athlete's Head. The San Antonio Spurs guard reveals some of his personal struggles in the episode that is set to release on Friday, just a week before DeRozan’s highly anticipated return to Toronto on Feb. 22.

Former Raptors star makes his return to Toronto with the Spurs on Feb. 22

San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan (10) has been one of a number of athletes instrumental in creating a conversation about mental health. (Bill Streicher/Reuters)

Former Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan reveals some of his personal struggles and frustrations in an exclusive, early premiere of a new season of Inside an Athlete's Head, which launched on Friday. You can watch it here.

The San Antonio Spurs guard is profiled in a short doc that is available on CBC Gem. DeRozan will make his highly anticipated return to Toronto as a member of the Spurs on Feb. 22.

Inside an Athlete's Head, directed by filmmaker Michael Hamilton, is a CBC Gem original series that gives viewers an exclusive perspective into the minds of some of Canada's most compelling professional athletes with abstract shots and first-person narration from the athletes themselves.

Season 1 featured big-name athletes like Canadian bobsledder Kaillie Humphries, who gave an emotional profile on some of her doubts, ambitions and regrets over the course of her career.

Hamilton has interviewed the likes of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash over the course of his filmmaking career. When asked about the opportunity to work with DeRozan, Hamilton said, "It was huge… Just the way his tone was in the piece, and some of things he said indirectly, you can kind of connect the dots that, here's a guy that does battle with things that are outside his normal day-to-day dealings."

DeRozan leading the conversation

The four-time all-star and all-time leading scorer in Raptors history has been outspoken about his mental health. In February of 2018, DeRozan sent out a tweet that sparked a conversation about athlete's mental health in the NBA.

Along with Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, DeRozan became the face of the NBA's league-wide initiative to encourage mental wellness among players, staff and fans.

In the new episode, DeRozan touches on a variety of topics including some of the misconceptions around life as a professional athlete. He also shares his views on the business side of professional sports.

"You see people always question or throw hatred at a guy that makes a decision for him or his family. But when it happens to him in the other way, oh, it's just business," DeRozan said. "Because it's business don't mean the situation was handled right."

Despite finding a new home in San Antonio, Hamilton said DeRozan's perspective on league front offices has altered.  

"You can still kind of feel his sense of...he's kind of tainted as far as the business of sports goes," Hamilton said.

Athletes are still human

Hamilton has worked on over 20 sport-themed films over the course of his career, and one thing he says he wants to show in this series is how athletes are just like us.

"We put these athletes on a pedestal, but then we forget they are humans at the core of it, and they have the same struggles and obstacles and insecurities that we all do," he said.

"As fans and fanatics of sports, it's hard for us to correlate those two with, 'Oh this a superstar I see night in and night out on TV scoring the winning basket or winning goal or breaking the world record. There's no way they could have problems, there's no way they could feel depressed, there's no way they have anxiety, there is no way they have money issues.'"

Hamilton's style of creating detailed character vignettes is featured throughout his projects over the years and it is again prevalent in this series.

"I didn't want to do something cliché," Hamilton said. "I just love the idea of using arbitrary shots that we have while they are talking about something totally different. Because that's how our minds think, we aren't always doing what we are thinking about."