The movie theater is sold out, and Jalen Moore has folded his 6-foot-8-inch frame into a mid-row seat.
Confinement alone makes this a stressful situation for Moore, who might still be playing in the National Basketball Association if not for the anxiety attacks that began last spring, while he was belted into a stuffy cabin seat on a plane before a game.
What’s worse, the movie he and his girlfriend are watching is “A Quiet Place.” The screen shows a post-apocalyptic world where anyone who makes the slightest sound is set upon by man-eating demons.
Moore feels hot, and begins to sweat. Instinctively, he looks for the exits, and he knows his girlfriend will understand if he decides to leave the theater. It’s happened before. more
THEY LEARNED FROM an early age to keep their heads bowed and their voices low. Around the Erie Avenue row house where Marcus and Markieff Morris grew up in North Philadelphia, eye contact with the wrong person could be misconstrued as a sign of disrespect or, worse, a challenge. “Then, next thing you know, the guns are coming out,” Marcus says. “I’ve seen guys get shot just for sitting on the wrong front step. We were surrounded by violence, gangs. You wake up every day thinking, ‘How am I going to protect myself?'”
The Morris brothers were exceptional athletes, providing them with an occasional escape from an environment Marcus says felt like a tinderbox: Light a match, and the whole thing will blow. Like many boys their age, the Morris twins dreamed of playing in the NBA or the NFL. “But,” Marcus says, “we were living somewhere where you never saw anybody do that.”
When the twins were in high school, their house burned down with their family cat trapped inside. Their mother, Angel, moved them and their brother Blake into a small home in Hunting Park with their maternal grandparents, a tight squeeze for teenage boys who would grow to be nearly 6-foot-10. They lived in the basement and slept on a mattress, with no heat and a ceiling that was only 6½ feet high, which made it impossible for them to fully stand up. Yet they were grateful, because at least they had family who cared. Only one in 20 of their friends had a father around — the twins’ dad was nowhere to be seen, either — and their mother worked long hours so she could pay for their basketball shoes and something to eat at supper. The twins leaned on each other for companionship, solace and courage. more
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