Kevin Love: Question: Why the f*ck can’t we be accepting or even open to the idea of someone breaking down to have a breakthrough? People are scared of facing their insecurities and perceived weaknesses (me being one of them)…and let’s be real, EVERYONE has their own set. This is because we use these insecurities and weaknesses against each other!!! What I’ve found and believe to be the truth is that once your insecurities are out in the open, this becomes your weapon, therefore disarming everyone else. YOU CAN’T USE ME AGAINST ME.
More on Mental Health
Kevin Love: Understand this 👉🏼... by being open about your struggles, you flip vulnerabilities into victories. The mental freedom comes in knowing once you put yourself out there, the other side is a reward of community and belonging. To Simone and others who have openly shared their story...You are helping many. Continue to lean into discomfort and vulnerability. Don’t deny your story — defy the ending. To those who aren’t venturing out into the “Arena”…we are all raised to believe emotions aren’t worthy of our attention. I recall reading a fitting term once: “emotion-phobic.” This isn’t a way to live. Your perspectives are understood but NO ONE benefits from withholding compassion. We are tribal beings. Why don’t we start acting like it?
Dwain Price: Jalen Brunson on Simone Biles dropping out of the Olympic team competition: “Good for her. Sometimes you need to tell yourself that “I need this.’ I know that she wanted to be out there with her teammates but I think for her mental state she needed to do that and I applaud her for it.”
Ricky Rubio: ... being in the Olympics #Tokyo2020 reminds me how in #Rio2016 somehow I ended up with a book in my hands called “Get some headspace” by @andypuddicombe Then I started to meditate and it changed my life. It’s been 5 years and I checked the stats on the app @Headspace Not bad Smirking face
Who was he without basketball? How much did ego cause his downfall? Why didn’t helping Miami win two championships fill his cup? Had he ever truly enjoyed being a head coach? And if he ever got another chance at a top job, how would he navigate one of its fundamental conflicts – trying to treat his players like human beings, not just a means to achieve his own ends, while still winning enough games to remain employed? “I really was at the lowest place I’ve ever been from a mental health standpoint,” Fizdale, 47, said last week. “I thought the lowest point was during the losses. But it was after, when you go through the whole part of, ‘What could I have done different? Did I even deserve this job?’ You think like you were an imposter. You felt like you got over on these people. You’re a fraud.”
As he rose for a dunk against the Houston Rockets, Wiseman meant to use his right hand but the lefty rose with his strong hand at an awkward angle. He was blocked by Kenyon Martin Jr. in the second quarter, and came down at an even more awkward angle. It was later determined Wiseman sustained a season-ending right meniscus injury. "It's kind of hard, I was really down," Wiseman said in his latest video diary for The Undefeated. "I can say that I was crying a lot. Yeah, it was bad. My mom had to actually tell me everything was gonna be all right. "But I got a great family support system. Really, just me mentally, I'm very strong as a human being. So, I just got through it naturally."
On a Saturday afternoon in mid-April, a few weeks after he was traded to the Nuggets, Aaron Gordon sat in the hotel room he was temporarily living out of and reflected on the most challenging season NBA players had ever dealt with. While bouncing around the country as a deadly transmittable virus continued to spread, players had been contending with health and safety protocols that induced isolation, obliterated daily routines and separated them from partners, children, friends and family. Novel stressors had been stacked on top of the countless professional and personal reasons players might feel anxious during any typical season.
Meanwhile, their bodies were being ground down by the compressed 72-game schedule. The physical injuries potentially caused by such a grueling endeavor have received ample attention; no shortage of media hands have been wrung over Kevin Durant’s strained hamstring, LeBron James’s high ankle sprain or Jamal Murray’s torn ACL. But comparatively little notice has been paid to an unseen element of players’ well-being, one affected as much if not more by this season’s atypically harsh conditions: mental health. “Although we have special gifts and talents that make us seem more than human, at the end of the day we’re just people,” Gordon says. “With the same struggles and the same sufferings, the same day-to-day anxieties and insecurities that the rest of the world is going through.”
As Gordon sat in his hotel room, the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd was days away from reaching a verdict, after weeks of heartbreaking testimony from eyewitnesses and Floyd’s loved ones. All season—and long before it began—relentless signs of racial inequality were “a constant strain on my mental health,” Gordon said. “I’m employed by the NBA. My job is to come out and compete and help my team win. But there’s just certain things that you can’t get out of your mind. It’s another reason why I do all of this mental health and mental training, because of how unfairly America treats Black men and Black women. And we’re still expected to come out, compete and act as if it’s not happening. It’s strenuous. Daily.”
NBA players are not a monolith, making it impossible to know precisely how mental health has affected their ability to perform this year. And there are innumerable variables that go into any game’s final score, with mental health being just one. But it’s also impossible to imagine a scenario where some thoughts and emotions felt off the floor would not carry over onto it. This was a season, after all, that featured notably uneven play: For most of this year, particularly after the All-Star break, the percentage of games that ended in a blowout was dramatically higher than usual.
“On the court, you want to be icey. You want to be really cool. You want to be composed,” Gordon says. “And when your mental is not right on the court, you do stupid things, like get technical fouls or compound mistakes. Like, say you miss a shot, you’re mad that you missed a shot so you turn around and foul somebody 80 feet away from the basket.”
Largely thanks to the need for teams and the league to preserve privacy, there is no available data on whether more players have taken advantage of mental health resources or whether they have experienced mental illness in greater numbers this season (according to a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association in November, 74% of psychologists reported seeing more patients with anxiety disorders compared to before the pandemic; 60% said the same for depression disorders). Anecdotally, though, in interviews with psychologists, psychiatrists and licensed mental health professionals who have experience treating NBA players, all agree that the need for help has swelled.
“The normal pressures that every player has had to contend with have been increasing in proportions that frighten me, frankly,” says Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). She adds that more players have called her about mental health resources in the past eight months than in her previous seven years on the job. “They’re expected to go out two or three times a week, perform at the highest level, and at the same time be husbands, fathers, boyfriends, sons, and on top of that deal with normal consequences of living in a pandemic. … We as a community don’t allow athletes the space to be vulnerable, and that’s wrong. They have as much right to be vulnerable as the rest of us. And in some ways, unlike many of us, they’ve got more reasons to be vulnerable.”
Vital here is promoting visibility while fighting the stigma against seeking help, a real enemy in the sports world. Crawford traces many of his early-career issues to feeling like he had to present a “tough-guy” image at all times; that can extend off the court for players and refs alike. Going to therapy, to some, shows weakness. “People were afraid, didn’t want to be judged,” says Davis. Programs like these, though, help raise awareness. “There’s no judgement on having a lower back sprain. As we’ve gone through that, we’ve extrapolated on it: There should be no judgement on stress, no judgement on feeling overwhelmed.”
Metta World Peace on looking up to Dennis Rodman, whom he recognized as struggling with mental health before many others did: "Dennis Rodman was the first one to come out [and publicly say he was managing his mental health] -- he was on Oprah [in 1996] -- he talked about his family. When I saw that, I'm like, "Oh, wow. I didn't know that about Dennis Rodman." I just grew attached to Dennis. Like, "Oh, I feel you, I understand what you're going through." But people didn't see it like that. Nobody wrote stories on, "Hey, Dennis Rodman was going through something." His parents weren't there, and he was homeless. That's why I changed my number to 91 [Rodman's number]."
Metta World Peace on thanking his psychologist, Dr. Santhi Periasamy, while talking to ESPN NBA analyst Doris Burke as confetti fell at Staples Center, where the Lakers defeated the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals: "A lot of therapists actually reached out. I know players that were going through stuff also, different issues than what I was going through. A lot of therapists hit me back [saying], "Thank you, you made my job easier just by coming out like that." I know we had [Kevin] Love and [DeMar] DeRozan who came out [and talked about their mental health]. I thought it was really good because I didn't realize they were actually going through a few things. And I thought that was big."
“It’s going to be a tough year for me,” Harrell told The Athletic, “ups and downs in general, because I’m still learning how to process losing somebody that meant a lot to me.” One of his tweets on March 9 read, “This the times I need you the most Ma! Hurts you not here for me to just call and laugh.”
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, a champion of mental health causes since he revealed his own issues three years ago, will receive the Humanitarian Award at the 21st Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission announced the honor Wednesday, ahead of Thursday night’s virtual event to be aired in a one-hour special on WKYC Channel 3, wkyc.com and SportsTime Ohio at 7 p.m.
In 2020, he was the first to discover the dead body of his cousin and personal chef. An aunt died from cancer. A family friend died of COVID-19. And in the early months of 2021, a cousin was killed in West Oakland. And then last Thursday, the day before the Lakers game, Lillard learned of the shooting deaths of two people in his inner circle. One was a cousin close enough to Lillard to be at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Portland in November. The other was like family — the best friend of perhaps his closest cousin, who was among the first family members to move to Portland when Lillard was drafted by the Trail Blazers in 2012. “I could be 45,” said the 30-year-old Lillard. “I’ve done seen and been around so much.”
He is hurting. His family is hurting. And every night the Blazers take the court, he is trying to summon the courage and understanding to keep playing. “It’s been a hard year and a half for my family, man,” Lillard said. “People have no idea.”
“I’ll say this — it’s been bittersweet for me the last year and a half,” Lillard said. “A lot of people don’t know, because I don’t seek sympathy, I don’t make excuses. I just show up. It’s like, you get on Twitter and people have so much to say. And when I post on Instagram, people have soooo much to say. ‘You didn’t do this’ … ‘Your team is never going to win a championship’ … you know, everybody just got so much negative shit to say. And I’m just looking at it like, I’m coming out here to practice every day, I show up for my team every damn game. I don’t make excuses. I just do stuff the right way. And I perform. I show up. If shit goes bad, I don’t shy away from it. I say, ‘My bad. I wasn’t good enough.’ When shit goes well, I don’t say it was all me. And that’s not just me trying to do the right thing. I say how I feel about stuff and how I see these situations.
This might be a personal question, but how did you get to this space where you’ve been through a lot, and now you’ve been able to overcome not holding these grudges? Or not holding these things against these certain people? Jeremy Lin: It’s super simple and I’m going to hit you with the most default churchy answer. But it’s truly why. Like I said, like in recent interviews, I went to therapy, and I got a mental coach, and I’ve talked through a lot of my past traumas. A lot of it was down to just Jesus’s sacrifice and the cross. Anything that someone could have done to me, I’ve done so much worse to Jesus. For him to die on the cross and give his life up for me. That’s like being given $1 million and then somebody wronged you and owes you $5 and you’re like, “You better give me those $5.” Even though somebody just walked down the street and gave you $1 million or $1 billion. It’s like, dude, that’s why.
Ohm Youngmisuk: KAT: "Everyone is different. My underlying conditions did not play in my favor with COVID... I am the most genetically close to my mother...nothing was playing in my favor.. mental health is very real. I have dealt with it my whole life and my mother always knew how to heal me."
Ohm Youngmisuk: KAT: "I feel very guilty about the treatment I got [that] I [wish was] more widely available to anyone in the world. I feel very guilty... there is such mental strain through all this time. A feeling of guilt because of the resources I have. I wish I could (share) the resources."
Scott Agness: Statement from Nate Bjorkgren: "I appreciate the impact Coach Bayno has had on our players and the Pacers organization over the last five years. All of us at the Pacers wish him the very best as he transitions to his next chapter."
Scott Agness: Pacers assistant coach Bill Bayno has been away fron the team since Jan. 25. He’s been through a lot in the last 18 months, including the death of his mother. He’s a social guy, so the isolation hasn’t helped. I hope he gets the help he needs.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Indiana Pacers assistant coach Bill Bayno has resigned his job, citing mental health issues, sources told ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Bayno has privately described a need to step away from the pressures and workload of the NBA grind amid the pandemic, especially in the aftermath of several personal losses, including the loss of both his parents.
As Ezeli spent six months post-surgery confined to a wheelchair and relying on help to use the bathroom, he sank into a deep depression. Basketball had become fundamental to his identity. Without it, he felt lost. “Depression is an understatement,” Ezeli said of that dark period. “Until that point, I never understood the importance of mental health. … But not being able to walk on your own for half a year, you definitely become close friends with depression.”
Fischer has a therapist and a psychiatrist on speed dial. The suicide hot line is programmed into his phone under the word “Life.” And right now, I realize, you may be reading this and thinking, “Wait, Rob Fischer? That Rob Fischer? The warm, open, funny guy who is part of the Grizzlies television broadcast team? Who wears all the colorful suits and shoes? That Rob Fischer has suicidal depression?” Yes, he does.
Indeed, that’s why he has decided to talk about it for the first time. That’s why he is sitting across from me, explaining the anguish that is hardwired into his days and reading me a quote from Robin Williams, the actor and comedian who killed himself in 2014: “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what
“I stopped taking my meds, and I thought I was doing great,” he said. “That led to my worst day ever, May 29, 2018. I don’t know what triggered it, but I was in the bed, crying, and I got to the point where I wanted to kill myself. I thought about how I’d do it, and how to make sure my wife got the insurance, and how to do it so my kids wouldn’t find me. And even though thinking those things terrified me, I didn’t stop thinking about how to end my life.” Fischer texted his radio partner, Brett Norsworthy, to tell him he couldn’t do the show that day. “He asked if I had eaten something bad,” Fischer said. “I told him it was mental. He texted back and said, ‘Don’t do anything stupid, OK?’ ”
Which brings us once again to what Fischer hopes will come of this. He hopes it will make it easier to talk about mental illness, easier to seek and offer help. NBA players Kevin Love, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan have all been open about their mental health challenges. The sunlight can feel good. “The worst thing for mental illness is loneliness,” Fischer said. “People who have it think they’re all alone. But they need to express it, they need to talk about it and they need to get help, because it’s the only way they’re going to feel better and survive.
“I play this game more because I just love watching my family members seeing me play a game I was very good and successful at,” he said. “It always brought a smile for me when I saw my mom at the baseline and in the stands and stuff and having a good time watching me play. It’s going to be hard to play. It’s going to be difficult to say that this is therapy. I don’t think this will ever be therapy again for me. “But it gives me a chance to relive good memories I had. I guess that’s the only therapy I’m going to get from it. It’s not going to really help me emotionally or anything.”
Rubio was 25 when his mother passed, and he was racked with guilt and depression in the months leading up to her death while he was still suiting up in his first tour with the Wolves. Rubio knew then, and he knows now, that basketball is anything but a refuge when dealing with a loss as gutting as what he went through in 2016 and what Towns is going through now. “Sometimes at night during the season I was going through hell,” Rubio told me at the Rio Olympics less than three months after Tona’s death. “Waking up in, who knows, Sacramento, in L.A., in the middle of the night alone in a hotel and thinking, ‘Why am I here? Is it really worth it?’”
Jon Krawczynski: KAT: "I've never been in a mentally good place since (his mother) went in the hospital. ... I wouldn't say (basketball) is therapy for me at all"
An injury in 2012 sent Kevin Love into a downward spiral, suffering from depression and anxiety to such a degree that he would not leave his room. He started to research ways to take his life. KEVIN LOVE: “I had a number of ways…the good thing that happens is when you do search that it comes up with the national suicide prevention line. There was a couple ways that I toyed with, but it was just scary to get down that route and think about the idea of, you know, taking my own life.” Love said it was a thought that frequently crossed his mind. And although he has made great strides in his mental health, he still sometimes has those thoughts.
GRAHAM BENSINGER: “Does it ever get to a point anymore where you still have suicidal thoughts?” KEVIN LOVE: “If whoever’s gonna watch this who has had those thoughts before, I think it does cross your mind and I’ve just learned to speak my truth, honestly. “I’ve learned that, you know, nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say. So me keeping that in is actually more harmful.”
Now Love is one of the investors backing a new venture called Coa that bills itself as the world’s first gym for mental health. Conceived of by company co-founder and CEO Alexa Meyer when she was walking around San Francisco and realized there were gyms catering to physical health on every corner but no visible options to work on emotional health, Coa offers both group classes and one-on-one mental fitness sessions with licensed therapists that have been specially matched with their client.
"Keldon is a sponge," Castillo said. "He is very curious and asks a lot of questions. He is focused on improving all aspects of his game to include his mental game." With Johnson's balanced approach to both the physical and mental side of his game, next season could be a special one for him and the Spurs. "It’s fun to work with a high performer who is just looking to be better and build on his already strong cognitive abilities," said Castillo.
"As a certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC), my focus is to help my clients apply mental skills and strategies to help them perform at their best," Castillo told the Spurs Zone. "A CMPC is focused on helping individuals improve their performance with a focus on the future. With that being said, part of my job is to provide strategies and skills that will improve our clients' mental and emotional wellness."
Earlier this month, Cavaliers five-time All-Star forward Kevin Love was joined in his crusade to de-stigmatize mental health issues by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott revealed that he dealt with depression during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and sought treatment after his brother Jace died by suicide in April.
“There’s been several periods in my life that have been somewhat [similar] to that mindset or ... depression I was in in 2013,” Love said. “I felt it was a good moment to share that because if you look at the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020, anxiety rates in America have tripled and depression rates have quadrupled. “I talked before how staggering the numbers are and how close it hits to home, whether it be Ohio or Oregon. It’s going to continue to trend in the wrong direction.”
Kevin Love: Being depressed is exhausting. That’s one of the cruelest ironies about mental health. When you’re in a dark place, everyone around you — all your friends and family — they just want to see you doing what you love again, being happy, being “the old you.” Sometimes it feels like the world is looking at you saying things like, “Come on, man, just get over it. Don’t think like that. Just move on.”
Kevin Love: That’s been on my mind a lot lately, considering the millions and millions of people around the world who have lost their jobs, or lost their loved ones, or who are just dealing with the unprecedented anxieties of being a human in 2020. I know so many people out there are suffering right now. I’m no different. I’m still going through it. Even after all the work I’ve tried to do on myself over the last two-and-a-half years, some days are just brutal. Let’s just call it what it is. Some days are total s---, right? It feels good just to say it.
Kevin Love: There are still days where I look at social media, or I see the news, and my anxiety gets triggered. But sometimes I get triggered by almost nothing at all. Just simple negativity is enough to start a spiral of overgeneralization. Oh, my coffee was s--- this morning? I must be s---. I’m a horrible human being. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed. That’s just the truth. And that’s why I wrote this.
“Paul George had said something about depression, about stress in the bubble, and it’s real,” Murray said. “It’s really real, and it’s hard to deal with — being away from the fam. … But for me, (basketball) is an addiction. I go by the pool, get my mind off basketball, come back, and get ready to go. When I put my addiction to basketball, it shows on the court. I go in for an extra lift. I lift twice (on game-days) — before shoot-around and before the game. I prepare myself mentally.
Beyond talking with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, teammates and family, George said he spoke with a team psychiatrist about his undisclosed issues. After shooting a combined 10-of-47 in Games 2-4 against Dallas, George then rebounded with a 35-point performance on 12-of-18 shooting in Game 5. "I know exactly what Paul is going through," Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green said. "You have nothing to do but look at your phone and social media all day. All they are doing is bullying you. They are trying to get you to play well. So he was going through a rough stretch. I’m sure doors were closing in on him, and it was getting dark for him."
"This was happening quite frankly before Orlando and even before the season hiatus in March," Jamila Wildeman, the NBA’s Vice President of Player Development, told USA TODAY Sports. "The strength we had tried to create in the bubble is only possible because teams, players, coaches and team staff had already embraced resources on the team level and league level. That created a foundation in which we could work."
It all sounded so breezy when the Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley arrived at Walt Disney World and promptly scoffed at the idea that working and living at one of the foremost playgrounds on Earth could somehow be complicated. The bubble, Beverley unforgettably declared that day, is what you make it. Nearly two months later, no one on the N.B.A.’s Disney campus can be that cavalier when talking about the surroundings. The league has managed to keep the coronavirus out, which undeniably is a significant achievement, but not without levying an emotional tax by severely restricting access.
Beverley’s first-glance view suggested that bubble inhabitants, with the right mind-set, could make this all seem as magical as a typical Disney trip. Now consider the review that the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James offered up Saturday night — after the league emerged from a three-day walkout during which numerous players gave serious thought to closing down the bubble completely. The near shutdown wasn’t motivated solely by the players’ social justice pursuits; also factoring in was the simple desire to return to the outside world. “I’ve had numerous nights and days of thinking about leaving,” James said. “I think everyone has, including you guys.”
James was referring to members of the news media and, without question, he was right. The word I have used to describe this assignment, over and over, is “unmissable.” That sentiment remains true, because I’m not sure I’ll ever have the chance again to cover N.B.A. playoff games in August and September in arenas without fans. But “interminable” also applies. I can’t deny that there have been times during my 52 days here that I tried to picture the finish line and couldn’t.
It’s not because of the workload. My role at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, leading ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. men’s basketball team for “SportsCenter” and ESPN.com, made for even longer days in some ways. What gets to you in the bubble is your lack of control, combined with the long-term isolation, all exacerbated by copious regulations and restrictions. So many rules to follow. So much time alone with your thoughts. An Olympic excursion, typically bucket list territory for most sportswriters, also lasts only three or four weeks.
Mirjam Swanson: Landry Shamet on Paul George being open about his mental struggles: "If you have the courage to speak about what's going on your head ... whether you're Paul George or a regular person on the street, that's empowering. ... I'm proud of him."
Barkley went on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday and essentially said PG13 had no right to speak about his bubble anxiety ... given the hardships other Americans are currently going through. "I don't think guys making millions of dollars should be worried just because they're stuck in a place where they can go fishing and play golf and play basketball and make millions of dollars," Barkley said. "That's not a dark place. The thing that just happened in Wisconsin, the things happening with this pandemic, all these people losing their jobs, those people are in a dark place."
The Los Angeles Clippers secured a 154-111 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series largely because George scored 35 points while shooting efficiently from the field (12-of-18), 3-point range (4-of-8) and the free-throw line (7-of-7). That marked drastic improvement from what he showed from the field in Game 2 (4-of-17), Game 3 (3-of-16) and Game 4 (3-of-14). “I just wasn't there,” George said. “I checked out. Games 2, 3, 4, I felt like I wasn't there.”
George wilting under playoff pressure? George experiencing issues with his surgically repaired shoulders? Clippers coach Doc Rivers failing to draw enough plays for him? The Mavericks defending George too tightly. No, no, no and no. Instead, George said his issues had nothing to do with X’s and O’s. “It was just a little bit of everything. I underestimated mental health, honestly,” George said. “I had anxiety, a little bit of depression. Just being locked in here.”
So, George said he spoke with a team psychiatrist, and leaned on his parents, girlfriend and children for support. Following the Clippers’ Game 4 loss to Dallas on Sunday that ended with Luka Doncic's game-winning 3-pointer, Rivers said he had “a long talk” with George in his room that he said had little to do with basketball. Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell played video games with George to cheer him up. Other teammates advised George to ignore social media. “Shout out to the people that was in my corner, people that gave me the words,” George said. “They helped big time about getting me right back in great spirits. Can't thank them enough.”
Andrew Greif: “We’re in a bubble,” Montrezl Harrell said. “… It’s nobody but you and your thoughts. So we just kind of wanted to get him out of that. Get him out of the room, play video games.” How PG and the Clippers rebounded for Game 5: latimes.com/sports/clipper…
As Shareef O'Neal's high school basketball star rose, he saw trolls flood his comments with hate after an off night. "It was like if I didn't have 30-15-10, everyone would compare me and say that I'm not as good as my dad," O'Neal says. "For other players, the kids who aren't getting the attention and they should be, they are telling themselves they need to get highlights in order to be seen and be famous." This can all take a toll on a player's mental health. Graham Betchart trains basketball players on the mental skills needed to overcome the stresses and anxieties of pro-athlete life, with clients including Aaron Gordon (since age 11), Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Jaylen Brown. His main message: Don't stress over what you can't control.
DeMar DeRozan: It's been times where I struggle, being in a room full of people and feel like I'm in there all alone, you know, and that always been something that affected me when I was when I had my dark days, my dark moments, you know, and it comes out of nowhere. When you least expect it. You could be smiling one second. And before you know it, you want a place of wondering how you got there, why I got there, and you asked so many questions. You know, and it's kind of frustrating, you know?
DeMar DeRozan: But as soon as you walk off from (the basketball court), it's like, now you back to that isolation in your brain and your thoughts and everything kind of takes over from there. It seems like the two, two and a half hours I was out on basketball court didn't exist because now I'm dealing with this whole feeling of being in a depressed mindset and not understanding why when it just, it wasn't a thought when I was just out there playing.
DeMar DeRozan: I just gotta go outside like in like peaceful light. Last few years I've been big on nature, I gotta be around nature to find calm, you know, I mean, like, just complete peace, quiet nature. And that kind of always helped me regroup and kind of settle down in a faster way.
DeMar DeRozan: Everybody don't understand the dedication you put into something you love and that you want so much. And sometimes you do it out of your own pain internally, you know, it's like I worked so hard to escape this feeling. But everybody wanted to enjoy the good stuff that came with me working so hard when I really was working hard to suppress my pain, my dark days, my dark nights when I felt so alone, you know, so I wish I would have understood that and not let it affect me so bad when other people probably didn't get it in the moment. And always scared to communicate and tell people like, you know why you work so hard and why don't like going out or why you don't like doing this? It's like, 'Yo, I work hard because when this is the only time I get to escape, and you don't see that I'm really screaming for help at times when I become tunnel vision and working so hard'. Sometimes you just want that hug.
While Gobert acknowledged that it’s “hard for me to be vulnerable” in discussing his mental health, he was “going through some stuff that people don’t know.” The period was so challenging that he didn’t feel ready to play when the bubble concept gained traction in April. “I was still not in the right state of mind to play basketball,” Gobert said. “I didn’t think it could happen at that point. As things went by, we had meetings and learned more about the virus, I started feeling better mentally and physically.
What was some of the things that you were going through mentally and emotionally knowing that you had the skill to be in league? JR Smith: Just mentally, I was in a state of just straight depression. I can't play the game that I love at the highest level that I'm accustomed to playing, like being on the outside looking. Like I've never been without the game of basketball, especially when it comes to a point where you're not hurt or you're not suspended or anything like that. And the fact that nobody wants you, to know the fact that you're not talented enough and nobody wants to because of the quote unquote type of person you are.
You go through all the injuries, and then what what was it? I mean, was it were about a year plus ago? You're out of the league, right? Michael Carter-Williams: That was a really, really hard time for me. I went through a lot, I've overcome so much. I went through mental health issues, you know, depression. My mind was telling me to do something when my body couldn't do. I remember there was times where I didn't want to leave my bed, didn't want to do anything. And then it took a lot of work to feel good about myself to be confident again and to appreciate the game.
Michael Carter-Williams: When I got released from Houston, it was tough. My girlfriend and my baby... I had issues with her. They ended up leaving. I was, I was an unhealthy human being. So I got cut, I was out the league, they had left the house. And so that was like, ground zero for me.
Michael Carter-Williams: People criticize you about something that you've been doing your whole life and something that you loved. You know, it's hard, it's hard for you to work so hard at something and then for everyone around you telling you that... Not everyone around you, but you know what I mean the media people, like just saying that, 'You're you're not good at this' and you've been doing it your whole life and you have an idea.
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal said players are concerned about being isolated on a campus where their leaving is discouraged. If a person on campus leaves, the person is subject to more testing and additional quarantine time. "We can’t just leave," Beal said. "We can’t just order whatever food we want. We can’t just do activities which we want to do. We can’t go to our teammate’s room. There’s a lot of (expletive) we can’t do. It’s tough. I get it from a mental wellness standpoint."
Dr. Stephen Gonzalez, executive board member for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, told The Post the experience may feel like “house arrest,’’ noting the bubble rulebook of 113 pages. Violators are subject to banishment. “It’s unchartered waters,’’ Gonzalez told The Post. “The Olympics, you need to have all their movements tracked with security details and it hampers your freedom. It’s a small amount of what’s to happen with basketball. They’re restricted to where they can eat. They’re giving up a lot of freedom to do this.”
“There’s going to be an initial excitement and motivation to follow the rules,’’ said Gonzalez, Assistant Athletics Director for Leadership and Mental Performance at Dartmouth. “Eventually, it’s like a New Year’s resolution. You diet and, after a week or two, you revert back to habits. Our athletes are going to revert back to what they like things to be. I think it’s going to be a lot of struggle and stress.”
Gonzalez predicts some players may drop out midstream. “It’s a pretty big experiment of willpower and patience,’’ Gonzalez said. “Not being able to train properly for four months, then I’m stuck in a hotel and can’t do anything. They will need something to occupy themselves or it could be a miserable experience.”
This is what Parham does for a living. His job is to reach people, often professional athletes. Parham is a licensed psychologist and the counseling professor in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. Before he took the position with the NBPA, he was a consulting psychologist for the Los Angeles Lakers and worked with the NBA, NFL and several U.S. Olympic teams for years. Parham is also Black. This detail provides important context in an NBA community filled with white leaders and the surrounding racial crisis in America. The NBPA represents a player pool that is approximately 81 percent Black, but that ratio dips precipitously the higher you climb on the NBA’s ladder of power.
As players waited for and eventually news on the NBA’s return to play, Parham and Dooling have been receiving texts from players directly on a regular basis. Parham hears from agents looking for resources to help mentally manage the crises at hand and sends out written newsletters to players with words of advice and links to explore.
“There’s certainly a fair amount of anxiety, depression, uncertainty, confusion, chaos, disbelief at the extremes, resentment and anger,” Parham continues. “The pandemic, particularly the global nature of it, is unprecedented. There’s no playbook for this.”
Parham thinks there will be some fear of the unknown and stress from the restrictions, but he expects the actual basketball to provide a rush of positive force upon arrival. “I think there’s going to be an emotional release from these guys, in a healthy way,” Parham says. “This notion that they’re going to be doing that which they love to be doing since they’ve been little boys at the playground.”
When Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love decided to go public with his mental health and wellness experiences in 2018, he admitted he was concerned about putting himself out there, telling the world about panic attacks and anxiety in a first-person essay titled, “Everyone is Going Through Something” on The Players’ Tribune.
“While I thought that through pretty thoroughly, I had spoken to my agent (Jeff Schwartz), and he knows how these things go when people live their life in the open,” Love told USA TODAY Sports. “He totally got it and said, ‘You’re going to open up yourself to a lot of people. A lot of people will be talking about this, and people are going to recognize you for more than basketball. Are you sure you want this?’
"For me, I was done suffering. I was done compartmentalizing and putting it away. I wanted to reveal some things and heal it. As long as you can help just that one kid, it’s going to make all the difference.”
For his efforts, especially with young people dealing with mental health and wellness, Love will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at Sunday’s 28th ESPY Awards show (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). The award, named after the tennis great, is given each year to a person whose contributions transcend sports. “I’m incredibly humbled by it,” Love said. “It’s really a profound honor if you look back at that group of men and women who I admire. Billie Jean King, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, to name a few. It’s very, very humbling to see my name next to those."
"I just feel like I have so much more work to do. Those are people who put in a lifetime of work. With my name next to theirs, I have an obligation and opportunity to make a lot of change in the world of mental health. I know what Arthur Ashe stood for and what he was about, especially being around UCLA. It’s just tough for me even now to put it into words what this means because it’s so much bigger than the realm of sports.”
In mid-May, after the NBA suspended its season, officials at the NBPA organized a Zoom call with players. They sought to focus on mental health -- to listen to concerns and provide resources -- and wanted to interact with a specific group that they found was experiencing the pandemic in a different way. The session was led by Dr. William D. Parham, the NBPA's director of mental health and wellness, and former NBA guard and NBPA Player Wellness Counselor, Keyon Dooling, "[Letting them know] that they have support of the brotherhood is very important," Dooling said.
About 30 international players dialed in from cities around the U.S., sharing concerns about loved ones thousands of miles away and about when and how they might be able to see them again. They asked about their ability to leave the country and come back, about their family members' ability to leave and come back, and whether family members would be able to join a "bubble" environment if the NBA season resumes. The call, originally scheduled for an hour, went for more than 90 minutes. For as many different languages and backgrounds as the players shared and for as much as they've been in isolation in recent months, they found common ground. "They discovered that everybody is in the same storm," Zuretti said.