Kaman recalls childhood frustrations

Times Staff Writer

Pamela Kaman can recount all the times she struggled with her son, Clippers center Chris Kaman, to get him to take his medication while he was growing up.

It was a hassle. Chris Kaman was an intelligent, but rambunctious, youth.

“There was constant uproar with him,” Pamela Kaman said. “You couldn’t do normal things. You couldn’t go to the movies as a family. It would always turn into a big thing.”

Chris Kaman was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder at 2 1/2 and began taking Ritalin and Adderall soon after and through high school.


Kaman, who had trouble remembering plays and concentrating on the court in college and in the pros, disclosed Sunday that he was misdiagnosed.

Kaman actually had an anxiety disorder that caused him to over-analyze situations and scenarios.

“Growing up, I had to take the medication my whole life,” said Kaman, who said he grew so frustrated taking the medication that he would come home from school and cry.

“I can’t take back time. I wish I could. But I can’t. It really bothered me to take the medication every day. I felt I had to take the medication to make me feel like a regular person. It was kind of backward.”

His misdiagnosis was discovered in July by Hope139, a 5-year old organization based in Grandville, Mich., that studies the brain. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, between 3% and 5% of children have ADHD, with symptoms that include hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

According to Hope139’s research of about 40,000 patients, up to 15% of those on medicine for hyperactivity do not have the affliction.

The medication Kaman took had the opposite effect on him, said Dr. Tim Royer, the organization’s chief executive.

Kaman’s brain was already working in overdrive, and the medication provided an added stimulus. The dosage was increased to the point that Kaman’s mind became overloaded and he became less animated. “He stopped being a behavioral problem, but he got too much medicine and it shut him down,” Royer said.


Kaman stopped taking medication once he entered college at Central Michigan because he no longer had to sit in one place for more than a couple of hours.

But his concentration in college, and once he signed with the Clippers, was still lacking. He could focus on the man he was guarding but not on weak-side defense, or as Royer put it, “He could see the tree in front of him, but not the forest.”

Said Kaman: “I would come out of a huddle that [Coach] Mike [Dunleavy] just drew [of] two plays and I would literally forget both those plays in a matter of 10 seconds or less.”

After discovering the misdiagnosis, Kaman started working with Royer on a system called “neurofeedback,” a method of reading brain wave activity to reinforce calm thoughts.


Kaman sits in front of a computer and if his brain waves are at a desired level, the screen will show it. If not, Kaman attempts to calm his thought process. During the off-season, he also worked with a wireless device that allowed him to measure his brain waves while on the court.

“It’s a very fast-paced game, and for me to be able to slow it down in my head, it really has been a lot easier and a lot less stressful in the games,” Kaman said.

His mind still works fast, the words spilling so quickly out of Kaman’s mouth that reporters afterward will argue where one sentence ends and the next begins. His improvement on the court, however, has been drastic, with Kaman showing an uptick in all aspects of his game. It is a combination of getting more touches to make up for the absence of an injured Elton Brand, better conditioning and his mental training.

“He’s a pretty bright guy,” Dunleavy said. “When you go through your play sets and that becomes tedious, that’s when you notice a difference in him drifting or not drifting. That’s when you can tell at certain things he is much better. He doesn’t make a lot of mental mistakes.”


Kaman is hoping to become a spokesman for children who are misdiagnosed or are simply looking for another alternative instead of taking medication for hyperactivity. “I’m using my resources as much as I can to try and help people,” he said. “I was trying to see if it worked first. I’m on a platform being in the NBA where I can help people.”

Kaman sprained his left ankle in Saturday’s loss to Dallas and is questionable for tonight’s game against Phoenix. . . . Corey Maggette was sick and missed Monday’s practice. . . . Quinton Ross, who was hit in his left eye and left Saturday’s game after only two minutes, is expected to play tonight. . . . Brevin Knight, playing despite a stress reaction in his left leg, practiced for about 20 minutes.




vs. Phoenix, 7:30, FSN Prime Ticket

Site -- Staples Center

Radio -- 710.

Records -- Clippers 10-23, Suns 26-11.


Record vs. Suns -- 0-3.

Update -- Grant Hill, who scored 22 points in the Suns’ 94-88 win over the Clippers on Dec. 28, is out after an appendectomy.