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Memphis Grizzlies guard Dooling keeps his faith despite troubled pastcomment (0)

December 12, 2013

Memphis Grizzlies guard Dooling keeps his faith despite troubled past

A private conversation preceded a public confession.

Keyon Dooling, a guard for the Memphis Grizzlies, told his wife Natosha something she never knew. A few months later, in November 2012, he let the whole world in on the secret during an interview with Katie Couric on her talk show “Katie.”

In the restroom of a Seattle restaurant, Dooling was touched inappropriately. A floodgate of memories followed.

“I could have been telling you this story from behind bars because I felt the anger that I had never felt from that moment,” Dooling said. 

Flashbacks from his childhood came out in post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

“I lost my mind for awhile. I went through some serious spiritual warfare,” Dooling said. “If it wasn’t for the presence of the Lord in my life and me seeking Him, I would either be in jail or in an asylum.”

When Dooling was 5 he began to be sexually molested by men, women and youth. It continued into his preteen years. The abuse and hurt led to him “acting out at a very young age.” He became sexually active and began to drink alcohol and smoke.

“I got disconnected when I got touched but I still knew the Lord. I still heard His voice,” said Dooling, now 33.

The “deep wound” continued to haunt him throughout his NBA career. Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Texas, and playing at Dillard High School, he received a scholarship to play point guard at the University of Missouri in Columbia. From there he was drafted by the Orlando Magic in the first round (10th overall) in 2000. 

He was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Clippers and would play with four more teams before landing in Boston in 2011.

“I was embarrassed about being molested, especially when it happened from a man,” he said. “There was a fear that I would be judged, that I would be talked about. I felt almost demon-possessed with anger and with hurt, and the enemy was really testing me.”

To deal with the hurt, Dooling retired from basketball. He walked away from $1 million. 

Then he entered a mental hospital in Wellesley, Mass., for four days.

“I just remember saying, ‘Lord, I am getting out of here. I got to be there for my family, my wife, my children. I have got to be there for myself.’”

Faith has became an anchor, Dooling said.

“It’s like the Holy Spirit filled me. I felt the Holy Spirit for the first time and that was the most precious feeling I have ever felt in my life. If you seek the Lord, you really open yourself up. Just like if you open yourself up to negativity, if you open yourself up to drugs and alcohol, it can lead to doom. If you open yourself up to the Word of God and seek the Lord, He will fill you.”

During the last five years, and especially in 2013, Dooling has been seeking the Lord more earnestly. 

“I started to get to know Him for myself, get to know His voice, get to know His ways and what He expects of me as a Christian,” he said. “Jesus means everything. Everything that I have gone through I believe happened to me for a reason. It molded me into the person I am, the man I am becoming. I really love the man who I am becoming. I couldn’t say this a year ago.”

Basketball returned. In April 2013, Dooling was signed by the Grizzlies. He played seven regular season games and 13 playoff games. 

No longer ashamed of what happened, Dooling and his wife have started a foundation called Respect to raise awareness of sexual abuse. And he has learned that basketball is what he does, not who he is.

What he does is play two positions. His 3-point shot is extremely accurate (.417) and he is a good defender.

“He brings us a good point guard presence off the bench. He brings a lot of veteran leadership,” said Grizzlies forward Austin Daye. “He definitely keeps his faith with him. I know he has gone through some hard times but I know he has stuck with it and been able to fight through it. That shows his faith and will are strong.”

Former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins described him as a veteran with life experience. “He has had some issues he has had to deal with that a lot of our younger players have never had to deal with,” Hollins said. “He gives a perspective that is real.”

Dooling said there are obstacles to overcome every day.

“I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “I am trying to keep my eyes on the Lord.”


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