While scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came upon a video interview of Kevin Love and ESPN reporter Jackie MacMullan. Usually, I wouldn’t stop and take time out of my day to watch Love speak. After all, now that LeBron James has left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers, Love doesn’t have that much relevance in my life.
However, I looked at the screen and saw a beautiful graphic of a player holding a basketball with the text “stigma” standing out. I then read the tweet, which was a quote from Love’s interview.
“Everybody’s going through something,” Love said. “Success is not immune to depression. I’m trying to change the stigma, not only for people in sports, but all over.”
That caught my attention. When was the last time we really heard athletes speaking out about mental health? Athletes are supposed to be the people with the toughest mindsets. Athletes are supposed to be invincible. In today’s world, professional athletes are supposed to have all the money in the world. How could they possibly be dealing with mental health issues?
Intrigued, I watched Love’s interview and read Part 1 of MacMullan’s five-part series on mental health in the NBA. In her article, she interviewed some of the biggest names in the NBA like Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh and USC alum DeMar DeRozan — all of them speaking about their own individual mental health issues.
DeRozan, was one of the first players to speak out on their mental health.
“This depression get the best of me,” DeRozan tweeted in February.
A week later, the 29-year-old former Trojan did an interview with the Toronto Star detailing his struggles.
“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day,” DeRozan said. “We all got feelings . . . all of that. Sometimes . . . it gets the best of you, times where everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”
As a sports fan, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine some of these superstars you look up to feel vulnerable. Yet, right in front of us, some of the biggest stars in the NBA are revealing their struggles.
The pathway to becoming a professional sports athlete is a long and strenuous one that takes a lot of dedication and a lot of pure physical ability. However, to make it to the NBA, or the NFL, or the MLB, must have tremendous physical ability, while also having fantastic mentality.
That’s what makes players like Love and DeRozan standout that much more. Love pointed out that some nights before games, he would think about the worst things that have happened to him over the past decade. He would spend more time with a negative mentality than with a positive mentality. Yet, he was able to not only compete each night, but also play at an All-Star level for most of his career.
Some people will call Love and DeRozan soft for the rest of their careers. Some people will never understand their struggling with such issues. After watching Love’s interview and reading MacMullan’s article, my perception of Love couldn’t have changed more. I went from thinking of Love as LeBron’s sidekick to realizing that he is one of the toughest and most talented guys in the entire league.
While Love and DeRozan have great mindsets, they over-analyze their bad performances more than any other athletes because of their struggles. Over-thinking is a great motivator sometimes, but it can also take over someone’s life.
The NBA is a tough league known for great trash talking. Love and DeRozan just exposed themselves and opened themselves up to great amounts of it. People now think they can get inside their heads and call them soft or weak.
But at the end of the day, there is nothing soft about them. They’ve overcome struggles to continue playing basketball. They’ve been forced to put up with that fight everyday. These challenges are certainly exhausting. While it may get to the best of them, like it did with Love last year against the Hawks, on most occasions they win the battle and are able to play basketball at an elite level without us seeing the brutal fight constantly occurring in their heads.
Robby Aronson is a sophomore majoring in journalism. His column, “The Bottom Line,” runs every other Wednesday.