Recently retired Keyon Dooling, who grew up in South Florida and played one of his 12 NBA seasons with the Miami Heat, has found a new calling after forgoing a one-year contract with the Boston Celtics this summer. But before he began speaking publicly about the childhood sexual abuse he had never mentioned to another soul, Dooling first had to go through an unfortunate awakening.
He was taken into custody and checked into a psychiatric facility earlier this year after a neighbor saw Dooling playing a bit too roughly with his kids at his home in the Boston area, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
Dooling later began undergoing counseling, which opened up the floodgates.
"You block things out," he told the Sun Sentinel recently. "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."
At the age of 5, in the Sistrunk Boulevard neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, Dooling was sexually abused. "A gentlemen touched me," he told the Sun Sentinel. The trauma tormented him afterward, but he did not understand why at the time.
Basketball offered Dooling a way out of his own environment, to the University of Missouri and finally the NBA. But he was an angry player on the court, and he now wonders if his abuse was the root cause of that anger.
"I don't know if it was me being in denial or me being delusional," he said. "It's a very fine line when you're dealing with something that happens so traumatic and a such a young age. But there definitely were behavioral patterns that were developed at an early age."
Now in therapy, he has become a mentor for young basketball players and is speaking up about the victimization of abuse. Dooling recently appeared on Katie Couric's talk show, where he spoke of his abuse in grisly detail.
"I had to speak out, in order to reach my higher calling, not only as basketball caretaker, but as a man, as a person, as a human being," he told the Sun Sentinel. "I have a magnificent platform, that I can speak about it.
"The millions of potential kids that I could have saved by telling them my story, I could have missed that calling if I didn't go through this moment."