It was the 10th game of the 2017-18 season, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Atlanta Hawks at home. Cavs head coach Ty Lue called a timeout in the third quarter to rally his troops. It was nothing out of the ordinary -- except for Kevin Love.
Love felt his heart racing, his head spinning, his chest clenching. He scurried to the locker room to gather himself.
"I was running from room to room, like I was looking for something I couldn't find," Love said in The Players' Tribune essay he authored in 2018 titled "Everyone is Going Through Something". "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."
Love was taken to the Cleveland Clinic for further examination, and, fortunately, there weren't any alarming findings. What happened?
Kevin Love's Mental Health Journey
The power forward had experienced a panic attack. Cleveland's championship or bust expectations, family issues and lack of sleep had all collapsed on him in one fell swoop. In an NBA game. On TV.
Panic attacks appear to be reserved for everyday folks, but a millionaire basketball player who's won a NBA championship and Olympic gold medal? What did he have to worry about? Would his teammates view him as weak? Soft? This stigma is what caused Love to keep his mental health struggles close to the chest at first. Then, he faced his fears and made it public in The Players Tribune article. Not for pity, but to help people.
He's made it a mission since.
Kevin Love's Mental Health Advocacy
Shortly after revealing his mental health story, the five-time NBA All-Star started the Kevin Love Fund to "inspire people to live their healthiest lives while providing tools for both mental and physical health." The non-profit organization focuses on providing mental health resources to promote mental wellness, fostering discussions about mental health and providing a social-emotional education program.
Love has also taken part in several mental health conversations with fellow NBA players. He and Chicago Bulls star DeMar Derozan, who has also admitted his struggles with mental health, opened up about their mental health challenges at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2019 with the goal of ending the stigma surrounding anxiety and depression, especially among men. At the 2020 NBA All-Star game in Chicago, Love participated in a fireside chat with President Barack Obama, Chris Paul and Giannis Antetokounmpo to talk about their impact outside of basketball. For Love, that meant talking further about mental health issues and emotional wellbeing.
In 2020, the Kevin Love Fund partnered with UCLA to to establish the Kevin Love Fund Chair in the school's psychology department to diagnose, prevent, treat and destigmatize anxiety and depression. His continuing activism was honored in 2020 by ESPN with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs. Last year, the Ruderman Family Foundation, a non-profit focused on inclusion, gave Love the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion.
The recognition is humbly welcomed. After all, the intent is to raise mental health awareness, but the main goal is to help people recognize they aren't alone and it's not only perfectly normal to struggle mentally, but it's okay to talk about it. Everyone has a personal mental makeup that affects them in different ways. "Something" can be anything.
However, Love makes sure to emphasize that his story isn't only an athlete thing. It's a human being thing.
When launching the Kevin Love Fund in 2018, Love laid out his ultimate goal:
"I'm just hoping to inspire that one kid," he said. "Because mental health doesn't discriminate."
It's that one kid that keeps Love's efforts going.
We at FanBuzz know that struggling with Mental Health is a constant, daily battle. If you or someone you know is struggling to find help and support, FanBuzz would like to offer the following resources. Let's Get Real for Athletes About Mental Health, The Kevin Love Fund (Teacher Resources + Student Resources),The Crisis Text Line, The Trevor Project and The National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Hampshire's BIPOC Resources. Everyone is going through something, but you don't have to go through it alone.
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