Mental toughness is needed in sports. You’re competing against people who work just as hard as you, and the act of simply knowing in your bones that you can indeed beat them is sometimes all it takes to put you over. But with the ups and downs of the NBA, it can be tough, and Cleveland Cavalier Kevin Love has come out about his battles with mental health.
In a self-penned essay for The Player’s Tribune, the 29 year old opens up about the very first panic attack he suffered on November 5, during the third quarter of a game against the Atlanta Hawks. It was a combination of family issues and the terrible start the Cavs got off to this season that left him with his heart racing, unable to catch his breath and running back to the locker room in a panic. He said that, just like with the rest of the population, there’s a stigma about mental health and professional athletes that prevents them from discussing it.
“For 29 years, I thought about mental health as someone else’s problem,” Love wrote. “Sure, I knew on some level that some people benefited from asking for help or opening up. I just never thought it was for me. To me, it was a form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different.”
In the infamous January 22 meeting where Isaiah Thomas challenged Love’s commitment to the game, Love came clean to the team about the panic attacks he’s been dealing with and how it has affected his game.
Soon after Love’s essay was published, LeBron James praised his teammate’s honesty, saying it made him even stronger.
Love felt even more comfortable admitting his struggle with panic attacks after Toronto Raptor DeMar DeRozan opened up about his struggle with depression. “I’ve played against DeMar for years, but I never could’ve guessed that he was struggling with anything. It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles,” Love wrote.