Skip to content

Exclusive: Spyda, formerly of AND1, talks mental illness and giving back

IMG-20130628-00013

Earlier this week, rolling out had the opportunity to catch up with superstar basketball player Spyda, formerly of AND1.

As many of you know, in 2012, ​Dennis “Spyda” Chism walked away from his passion … AND1 Live Streetball and the many companies and brands in which he helped build, but what many of you don’t know is what happened next.

While many athletes would have spun their fame into a reality show or becoming just another name on a promoter’s ballot, Spyda chose to use his newfound freedom to give back. Check out why and what he had to say about his new organization, Spyda’s World below. – ruthie hawkins/@ruubabie

What inspired you to start Spyda’s World and work with young people struggling with a mental illness?

When I left AND1 Live in 2012, it was a huge transition and I suffered from some pretty serious depression. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone and began to have thoughts I never would have to begin with. Your mind will have you thinking all kinds of crazy things.

If it weren’t for my manager making sure I made it to therapy, my love for the game and knowing that God had a different plan for me, I probably would have gone down a completely different path. I chose to work with kids, because they can get you through anything. They get your spirits up.

What do you hope to achieve with your platform?

Right now, I plan to continue with my summer camps and working with kids. I have a camp coming up in Mississippi in July. I have a lot of things going on; including my children’s camps, filming a documentary on my life, and now Africa wants me to come over and build a academy in my honor.

But at the end of the day, I would like to open five mental health facilities: one in Atlanta, California, two places in the Midwest and then one facility up North. I feel like as far as Atlanta, that is all they are missing. They have plenty of programs to get involved, but not a center where athletes and other individuals can actually go to seek help.

Can you tell us a little bit about your documentary?

The film is about my life since AND 1 and my transition as a young adult to my now 33 years. I was born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in Inglewood, Calif., before moving to Atlanta and this is the first time that I can say that I can finally can sit still. In a way, I feel like I’ve lived my life backwards. I’m out in California now, spending time with my childhood friends, living the way I should have back then. But I don’t have any regrets.

Now I understand that you just did a summer camp with Voices of Faith Ministries where you hosted 200 kids. What was there reaction to their experience? Were they receptive to you?

Oh yeah, of course. My camps are no joke and I demand respect. But the thing about that is, once you gain the respect of one child, you gain the respect of the whole group. But don’t get it twisted, I’m old school. I’ll go outside and get that switch if I need to.

What is your biggest success story working with Spyda’s World Organization?

I worked with this one kid — he was a little older at the time, 16-years-old. He was into a lot of bad stuff … breaking and entering, robbery and some other things. I told him, ‘listen, I will train you for free if you stay out of trouble.’ To this day, he is still in Atlanta playing ball and hitting the gym. He even has a job.

I’ve learned that once you show these kids a different way, they’ll stick to it. You just have to give them something to do in order to keep them out of trouble and their mind from going off the deep end.

Now, as an athlete who spent half of his life dedicated to the game, we have to ask, what are your feelings towards Donald Sterling and his comments concerning African Americans?

Well you know, sports isn’t the only industry where this happens. He was definitely wrong and I hope that the players can come together and everyone can move forward from the situation, but at this point, it’s done. There’s just not much you can do, but move forward.

Do you have any events or appearances coming up?

I do. I am currently working on a few things here in California but most of everything I do is in Atlanta, GA, where Spyda’s World Organization is headquartered. I’m having a basketball summer camp this year in Cleveland, MS in July. I’m getting prepared for my documentary and also in the planning now for my 2nd annual Spyda’s World Organization Streetball Event called ‘On The Court With A Cause: Bringing Awareness To Mental Illness’ event that takes place during the BET Hip Hop Awards weekend in Atlanta, GA in late September.

Spyda’s World is also currently seeking sponsorship and looking to network with any mental health agencies in Atlanta, GA who are interested in getting the word out and bring further awareness to what I’m trying to achieve. For more information on current and future events, people can always visit my website www.SpydasWorld.org.

For more information on Spyda and his organization or how to get involved, please visit his website www.SpydasWorld.org.

You can also follow Spydas World at the following:
Twitter: @TheWorldOfSpyda
Instagram: @SpydasWorld
Facebook: @thefoundationworldofspyda