Thankfully, as of recently, the NBA is making strides for the first time in history to be more inclusive about mental health among its professional athletes. All this, thanks to the hard work and dedication of a few athletes who broke the mould by choosing to be honest, and speak up for what is right. Trailblazers DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love are making waves in the NBA, and it’s not just because they can put up shots. Both arguably some of the best players in the league right now, it’s no surprise that their performance on the courts have made headlines across the country. It’s their off-the-court experiences, however, that are seldom discussed. In February 2018, DeMar decided to send a difficult message to followers during the All-Star break. Typically a time of excitement and fun, friendly competition for participants, DeMar was feeling anything but. His tweet read “This depression gets the best of me.” What was seemingly a simple, 7-word tweet suddenly sparked overwhelming response from fans around the world. Clearly DeMar had touched on something so close to home for many fans, as the heart-felt replies and well-wishes rolled in. Unbeknownst to him, DeMar had just started a movement among players. A few weeks after his tweet blew up online, Kevin Love took to The Players Tribune to open up to fans about his own struggles with anxiety. “On November 5th, right after halftime against the Hawks, I had a panic attack” the 5-time NBA All-star writes. He continues on to tell his story, and encourage others to reach out by closing with “Everyone is going through something that we can’t see”.
Although slow in progression, changes in the NBA and NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) are being made. They now have plans to name a Director of Mental Health and Wellness, as well as plans to implement a Mental Wellness program for players. In a profession where mental health is so heavily stigmatized, we’re thankful to have trailblazers like DeMar and Kevin, whose honesty and resilience are helping to break down stigma across professional sports.