Just before the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan revealed via a tweet that he had been struggling with depression. In a recent interview with TNT analyst David Aldridge, DeRozan explained how support from fans and others around the world have helped encourage him since disclosing his struggle.
Today, in an essay on The Players’ Tribune, Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love disclosed that he suffered a panic attack earlier this season during a game. In the piece, which is titled “Everyone Is Going Through Something”, Love explains that he suffered the panic attack on Nov. 5 during the Cavs’ 117-115 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
According to The Associated Press recap of that game, Love left the game in third quarter “with an illness. The team announced that Love, who had four points and four rebounds in 19 minutes, was treated and released.” In his Players Tribune essay, Love explains what happened to him during the game and says he felt strange from the opening tip:
I was winded within the first few possessions. That was strange. And my game was just off. I played 15 minutes of the first half and made one basket and two free throws.
After halftime, it all hit the fan. Coach Lue called a timeout in the third quarter. When I got to the bench, I felt my heart racing faster than usual. Then I was having trouble catching my breath. It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out. When I got up to walk out of the huddle, I knew I couldn’t reenter the game — like, literally couldn’t do it physically.
Coach Lue came up to me. I think he could sense something was wrong. I blurted something like, “I’ll be right back,” and I ran back to the locker room. I was running from room to room, like I was looking for something I couldn’t find. Really I was just hoping my heart would stop racing. It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die. I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe.
The next part was a blur. Someone from the Cavs accompanied me to the Cleveland Clinic. They ran a bunch of tests. Everything seemed to check out, which was a relief. But I remember leaving the hospital thinking, Wait … then what the hell just happened?
Love played in the Cavs’ next game, a 132-116 road win against the Milwaukee Bucks. In that game, he scored 32 points and pulled down 16 rebounds.
According to Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon, Love suffered another panic attack in the Cavs’ Jan. 20 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Love left that game after playing just three minutes for what the team said were migraines. His absence from that game was called into question by teammates during a Jan. 22 meeting.
Though Love does not mention it in his essay, which is titled “Everyone is going through something,” Love told Cavs teammates the reason he left The Q before the end of a loss to Oklahoma City Thunder in January — in which he left the game after three minutes for what the team said at the time was migraines — was because of his panic attacks.
Love made the disclosure during the infamous Jan. 22 team meeting in which Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas challenged him (and the organization) as to why Love not only left before the end of the game, but missed practice the next day.
He says in his Players’ Tribune piece that getting back on the court after that first panic attack helped, but the after-effects of the panic attack still worried him. The Cavaliers, he says, helped him find a therapist and work through some issues he was dealing with, particularly regarding the death of his grandmother years ago:
So I did one seemingly little thing that turned out to be a big thing. The Cavs helped me find a therapist, and I set up an appointment. I gotta stop right here and just say: I’m the last person who’d have thought I’d be seeing a therapist. I remember when I was two or three years into the league, a friend asked me why NBA players didn’t see therapists. I scoffed at the idea. No way any of us is gonna talk to someone. I was 20 or 21 years old, and I’d grown up around basketball. And on basketball teams? Nobody talked about what they were struggling with on the inside. I remember thinking, What are my problems? I’m healthy. I play basketball for a living. What do I have to worry about? I’d never heard of any pro athlete talking about mental health, and I didn’t want to be the only one. I didn’t want to look weak. Honestly, I just didn’t think I needed it. It’s like the playbook said — figure it out on your own, like everyone else around me always had.
When I made the NBA, she was getting older, and I didn’t see her as often as I used to. During my sixth year with the T-Wolves, Grandma Carol made plans to visit me in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Then right before the trip, she was hospitalized for an issue with her arteries. She had to cancel her trip. Then her condition got worse quickly, and she fell into a coma. A few days later, she was gone.
I was devastated for a long time. But I hadn’t really ever talked about it. Telling a stranger about my grandma made me see how much pain it was still causing me. Digging into it, I realized that what hurt most was not being able to say a proper goodbye. I’d never had a chance to really grieve, and I felt terrible that I hadn’t been in better touch with her in her last years. But I had buried those emotions since her passing and said to myself, I have to focus on basketball. I’ll deal with it later. Be a man.
The reason I’m telling you about my grandma isn’t really even about her. I still miss her a ton and I’m probably still grieving in a way, but I wanted to share that story because of how eye-opening it was to talk about it. In the short time I’ve been meeting with the therapist, I’ve seen the power of saying things out loud in a setting like that. And it’s not some magical process. It’s terrifying and awkward and hard, at least in my experience so far. I know you don’t just get rid of problems by talking about them, but I’ve learned that over time maybe you can better understand them and make them more manageable. Look, I’m not saying, Everyone go see a therapist. The biggest lesson for me since November wasn’t about a therapist — it was about confronting the fact that I needed help.
Lastly, Love credits DeRozan for starting the conversation about mental health and professional athletes. But more than how it affects his NBA colleagues, Love makes it clear in his piece he is concerned about mental health issues for everyone, regardless of their profession:
I want to end with something I’m trying to remind myself about these days: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.
I want to write that again: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.
The thing is, because we can’t see it, we don’t know who’s going through what and we don’t know when and we don’t always know why. Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s part of life. Like DeMar said, “You never know what that person is going through.”
Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing.
Hours after Love’s essay was posted to The Players’ Tribune, teammate LeBron James praised Love on Twitter and called Love “more powerful than ever before”.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 6, 2018
Love has been out of the Cavs’ lineup since Jan. 30 as he recovers from a fractured left hand. He is averaging 18.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game this season.