Kevin Love can’t remember being this freshly shaven, gliding his fingers over his smooth cheeks and chin while glancing at a large mirror.
The reflection doesn’t pain him anymore.
From the outside, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ All-Star forward appears to have it all: A model’s striking looks, a multi-million dollar contract and dream job. At 30, he’s in the prime of his career, and maybe for the first time, truly happy.
“I’m getting there,” he said, his voice conveying determination. “It’s still a work in progress.”
Nearly a year ago, Love suffered a panic attack during a game against Atlanta. The desperate, life-altering event eventually led to revealing his long-term battle with anxiety and depression.
Now Love is hoping to break down stigmas about men’s mental health. He has partnered with Shick Hydro on a website series called “Locker Room Talk”, holding candid conversations with Olympic gold-medal swimming icon Michael Phelps, former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce and Cavs teammate and close friend Channing Frye.
An interesting footnote to the recent NBA playoff matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers was that the series featured two players who have unintentionally emerged as mental health ambassadors for the league. It began during All-Star weekend in February, when Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan elicited widespread media attention for a cryptic seven-word tweet about his depression. Inspired by the candidness of his fellow hooper, Cleveland’s Kevin Love subsequently published a personal essay on the Player’s Tribune about suffering a mid-game panic attack. The article went viral, and Love received thousands of emails in response. The NBA, perhaps feeling the pressure to issue a response of its own, recently announced that it would be creating a new position for a director of mental health and wellness. The recent focus on psychological well-being feels like a welcome change of tack for the league.
One might wonder, however, why it’s still a big deal when two professional basketball players open up about an issue that affects millions of people in a country reputed to have the highest rate of antidepressant use in the world. Mental illness, it seems, is ubiquitous in America. But among the nation’s sporting elite, the subject still feels like a repressed secret. more
It was hardly an ideal environment to broach such a sensitive, personal topic as mental health, but Cavaliers forward Kevin Love had hinted three weeks earlier in Cleveland that he might be ready to share. At that time, I was interviewing Channing Frye in the Cavs’ locker room regarding his depression following the deaths of his parents, while Love, sitting at the adjacent locker, listened intently to our conversation.
“We all go through something,” Love said, cryptically, as I stood up to leave.
Now Love was perched on a dais in a ballroom at Staples Center in front of a long, flowing black curtain, fielding innocuous questions regarding his workout regimen. I navigated my way to the front of the pack and lofted Love a couple of warm-up questions regarding Frye. Once Love acknowledged that Frye’s candor was “an important step” toward putting a face on mental health, I had my opening. more