The NBA should consider adding more mental health resources for its players, because it would benefit both the league and its most valuable assets.
USA Today recently ran a piece that centered around elite athletes who have struggled with mental health, and it made me think about what the future holds when it comes to professional sports and that aspect of medicine. The NBA has been at the forefront of empowering players probably more so than any other league in American sports, but this is an area where it could go even further.
The article featured quotes from two former NBA players, and they both had interesting things to say on the topic.
“Some people hide their pain,” basketball legend Jerry West said. “I’m not proud of the fact that I don’t feel good about myself a lot of the time, but it’s nothing I’m ashamed of. This is something that doesn’t go away, this depression. When I go through it, it’s almost always based on my (low) self-worth and self-esteem.”
West is literally the logo of the NBA, and so if this is an issue that he has dealt with then without doubt there are hundreds of others like him. Not many people are able to be open about realities like depression, but he has been and should be commended for giving voice to the often voiceless.
Royce White only played three games in the NBA, but his college program made headlines for paying particular care to his challenges. He didn’t last long in the NBA mainly due to the lack of resources available for him.
“It’s been painted as me wanting special treatment because of anxiety,” White says. “No, I’m saying I need the same type of support as anyone who is struggling. Call it whatever the hell you want to call it. There are specific injury doctors for players with bum knees and sprained ankles.”
Michael Phelps, Rick Ankiel and Brandon Marshall were also featured in the article, but the NBA players have been highlighted due to that league’s history of innovation and pushing things forward. If there is any professional sports league that could make the first move here, it’s the NBA.
In the long run, it would benefit the sport of basketball, its fans and its players. This is not to say that the NBA hasn’t been admirable in many respects during the last few decades, but it could always do more for those in dire need of help.