Saturday, July 20, 2024

Former Wisconsin hoops star sheds light on his addiction

Former Wisconsin hoops star sheds light on his addiction

FORT DEFIANCE – For a good part of his life, Bronson Koenig experienced nothing but success.

As a freshman in high school he received a verbal offer to play collegiately for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team. Not long after that, the Ho-Chunk Native received other offers from a boatload of Division I programs.

The 6-foot-4 guard eventually settled on playing at Wisconsin, helping the Badgers to back-to-back Final Four appearances during his freshman and sophomore campaigns in 2014 and ‘15.

His professional career included stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls after going undrafted in the 2017 NBA draft.

In its final roster cut the Bulls waived Koenig. He later signed with the Grand Rapids Drive before playing overseas in Montenegro in 2018. He then returned to the States and played one season for the Erie BayHawks.

Despite having all that success during the peak of his basketball career, Koenig’s personal life veered in another direction as he started to abuse drugs and alcohol.

“Going from never partying, and never doing anything in high school and going to the No. 1 partying school in the country that was literally the beginning of my addictions,” said Koenig, who hosted an 18U hoops camp at the Bee Hółdzil Fighting Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance last week.

“I went from being a leader in high school to being a follower when I got to Madison,” he said. “We were winning, so everything was good. I was going along with the crowd because that was what everybody was doing.

“You know that’s part of the white people’s culture in America, which is drinking, especially in college,” he added. “What I realized is that might work for them, but it doesn’t work for us Native people. I’m a walking testament to that because I really never touched that stuff until I got there, and I started developing those addictions.”

What started out as recreational use escalated into an addiction for marijuana as Koenig became a part of the partying scene at the University of Wisconsin.

“I did drink, but I definitely resonated with smoking marijuana more,” Koenig said. “I abused it to escape and numb out just like how other people do with other drugs.”

Koenig also dealt with another addiction in the form of womanizing.

“That’s another thing I started in college because I was the star athlete,” the 29 year-old said. “I could almost get anything I wanted at that time. I was brought up around toxic masculinity and having women around me was a way for me to feel powerful and to feel validated. But at the end of the day, it was just to satisfy my ego with the insecurity and pain that I was feeling.”

It wasn’t until his junior season in college that the people he loved intervened. They tried to push Koenig back into a righteous path, but he was so deep into his addiction and the lifestyle he developed made it difficult for him to turn back.

Koenig remembers being on a three-week binge to where he drank and blacked out for 21 days in a row right before he started his workouts entering his junior year.

“That was the most lost and disconnected that I’ve ever been in my life,” Koenig said. “I didn’t know how to heal, and I didn’t know how to self-regulate in a healthy way. I didn’t have the mentors that some people are privileged to have, and I didn’t have the connection to my culture that some people are privileged to have.

“I didn’t have my aunties, uncles, grandparents to guide me,” he added. “And so I ended up having to get canceled on social media. I got called out and I got canceled on social media by a lot of people around Indian country.”

Koenig was called out for being a womanizer and getting canceled was the most traumatic thing he experienced as he lost a lot of followers.

“I was disrespecting women and someone in my own tribe had to call me out on that on social media,” Koenig said. “I was one of the first people in Indian Country to get canceled. At that time I was at my peak, at the pinnacle of my career and my life.

“That’s an experience that I never want to go through again,” he said. “But I can now look back after however many years and feel some gratitude towards that because some people are just hard-headed sometimes and that was me.

“Some people have to go through immense suffering for them to wake up,” he added.

Since then Koenig has used his Native teaching to help him in his recovery, which started four years ago.

“Some addictions take a long time to really kick, but I’ve been eight months fully and completely sober from everything,” Koenig said. “I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt in my life even during my career as a professional basketball player.”


About The Author

Quentin Jodie

Quentin Jodie is the Sports Editor for the Navajo Times. He started working for the Navajo Times in February 2010 and was promoted to the Sports Editor position at the end of summer in 2012. Previously, he wrote for the Gallup Independent. Reach him at qjodie@navajotimes.com

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