Controversy has arisen in the last year as professional athletes have taken action, either verbally or through methods like silent protest, on issues about which they feel passionate. These have been relatively divisive issues, such as racial equality and our current president’s controversial policy decisions. Recently two NBA All-Stars spoke out on a personal issue as a means to help others.
Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, a 28-year-old four-time NBA All-Star from Compton, Calif., highlighted his struggle with depression in an interview with the Toronto Star in February. Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, a five-time All-Star, wrote an article for the Player Tribune March 6 to DeRozan about his recent re-shaping of his views of his own mental health in response.
DeRozan, at the time of his extension in the summer of 2016, signed the second-largest contract in NBA history at $139 million over five years. He is the Toronto Raptors All-Time career leading scorer and has millions of fans and followers. However, he says that sometimes his lonely moments get to him.
“We’re all human at the end of the day,” he said. “It gets to the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”
DeRozan reflected on his experience with friends growing up who faced similar issues and how he learned from them.
“I had friends that I thought was perfectly fine, next thing you know they’re a drug addict and can’t remember yesterday,” he said. “I grew up seeing so many people drinking their life away to suppress the [troubles] they were going through. My mom always told me: never make fun of anybody because you never know what that person is going through… I don’t care what shape, form, ethnicity, nothing, I treat everybody the same, you never know.”
DeRozan’s honesty has reached a lot of people who relate to his situation, and he hopes he can inspire hope in those people.
“Even if it’s just somebody can look at it like, ‘He goes through it, and he’s still out there being successful and doing this,’ I’m okay with that,” he said.
Kevin Love explained that Nov. 5, while playing the Atlanta Hawks, he had a panic attack on the court. This breakdown caused him to re-evaluate the stigma around mental health and mental health issues, specifically among men.
“For 29 years, I thought about mental health as someone else’s problem,” said Love. “To me, it was a form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different.”
After the Hawks game, Love did something he never thought he would do, he began going to a therapist. This was eye-opening for him, and he explained that being open and talking about these problems was extremely beneficial for his mental health. This resulted in a totally different view of the issue. After being inspired by DeRozan’s speaking out, Love is encouraging others to be more open and honest about their problems.
“The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with,” he said. “Creating a better environment for talking about mental health … that’s where we need to get to.”
These men’s stories have reached countless people who can relate to their struggles and appear to be motivating a more open and understanding view of mental health in the world of professional sports and society more broadly.
Photo courtesy of SB Nation.