Anthony Davis reveals his deep unhappiness before trade to Lakers: 'I wasn’t in a great frame of mind'

Liz Roscher
·5-min read

It’s been two years since Anthony Davis publicly requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. In that time, he’s been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, won his first NBA championship and signed a massive five-year, $190 million contract that will keep him in LA for the next several years.

Davis’ trade to the Lakers led him to happiness, joy and positivity. It’s a stunning turnaround, because Davis was deeply unhappy before the trade. In interviews with The Bird Writes and CBS Sports, Davis opened up about how he felt in his final months with the Pelicans, and how happy he’s been since he was traded to the Lakers.

Final months with Pelicans were unhappy

During Davis’ early days in the NBA, his old head coach Monty Williams told him something that he’s carried with him ever since.

“I had a coach my rookie year, Monty Williams, who always told me, ‘Never let anyone steal the joy from you. Never let anyone steal your joy for the game from you,’” Davis told The Bird Writes.

Those words played a big part in his eventual decision to request a trade. In a December interview, Davis told The Bird Writes that the constant losing in New Orleans had taken a toll on him. He had money, but he was unhappy and starting to question whether he even wanted to play basketball.

“When you’re losing, you don’t realize that you’re not happy,” Davis said. “You made a ton of money. You can do whatever you want. You can live this lifestyle, quote-unquote ‘The American Dream,’ but losing sucks. I [realized that] I’m not happy. I want to be happy. And you kind of go through these times where it’s like, do I really want to play basketball? Am I really good enough? You start doubting yourself because you’re not happy. Or it might be stuff in your personal life where you’re not happy. Whether it’s in a relationship or family, whatever it may be. I had some of those things where it’s like I’m going through something off the court. I’m not happy and it’s reflecting my game. It starts leading to minor injuries, you’re not playing hard enough, things like that.”

Things turned even more sour when Davis requested that the Pelicans trade him. Not only had he lost the joy of playing, he was struggling with even going to practice.

“I didn’t want to go to practice, I didn’t want to play,” Davis recalled from 2019. “There was just a lot going on because I didn’t have that joy with me anymore. Getting into it with the fans, the media, it was just a lot. I wasn’t in a great frame of mind — a great space for me to be joyful.

“Every day was like, ‘Ugh, here’s another day. I can’t wait until the season is over.’ Things like that. You’d see people say, ‘AD, you traitor!’ and I’d think, ‘What? You don’t understand what I’m going through.’ It was all wearing down on me at one time, but I had a great team around me, from my agency to my family to my friends, ‘Nah, forget what they’re saying. You’re doing what’s best for you and your family.’”

Anthony Davis drives the ball during a game for the Lakers.
Anthony Davis opened up about how miserable he was in his final months with the Pelicans, and how happy he's been since he was traded to the Lakers. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Davis now happy on and off the court

The joy that Williams talked about back in Davis’ rookie year, it wasn’t there in his final months with the Pelicans. But he told CBS Sports that playing for the Lakers and reaching for a championship has helped him find that joy again. And he’s able to keep that going when he’s not on the court.

“I’ll tell you one thing that I learned from being in this field of work is that life is about balance. You have to balance,” Davis told CBS Sports. “For me, when I’m at work, I’m locked in. When I’m on the court at practice or a game or whatever, this is my time — two, three hours of dedicating myself to the craft. ... But when I’m not playing, I’m enjoying my life.

“I’m 27 years old, I’m gonna enjoy this, have joy, when I’m still here. It’s 2020, you don’t know what’s gonna happen, so you want to enjoy your time on this Earth. I’m gonna continue to have fun and do what I want to do to keep me happy, because I know that me being happy off the floor will translate on the floor, where I’m able to play free and play with more energy and more effort because I’m so happy.”

Davis credits his family with helping him find that joy, because they give him something to play for. And he believes his happiness directly contributed to his great 2019-20 season, and to the Lakers winning a championship.

“In order to be successful, you have to have joy,” Davis told CBS Sports. “I don’t think you’re happy because you win. I think you win because you’re happy.”

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