TNT analyst Steve Kerr praises NBA player for dealing with personal mental issues


steve-kerrNBA player Royce White has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, defined by the NIMH as a disorder in which people “go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it.

Since going public with his mental health struggles one year ago, White discovered his calling is not necessarily on a basketball court. He has become an outspoken, if not stubborn, advocate for mental health and the rights of those who suffer from mental illness.

The Rockets team has declined to comment on White’s situation but have maintained in statements they want things to work out.

White’s disorder includes panic attacks, a fear of heights and traveling – especially by plane – and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The Rockets knew all of that when they drafted him. It started off as a feel-good story. A progressive NBA franchise took a chance on a talented player with a sometimes debilitating anxiety.

Tension between teams and players is not uncommon, but such a public conflict over mental health is new territory for the NBA.

At the core, White wants not just the Rockets but the NBA to recognize he has a mental disorder and it needs to be treated the same way a team treats a physical injury.

“I’m not really sure how often a team has dealt with what Houston is dealing with right now,” TNT analyst and former NBA player and executive Steve Kerr said.

“I respect what he’s trying to accomplish and how he’s trying to help people. That’s important.

“Usually what happens is if a guy is tough to deal with, you don’t have the energy and resources to handle that with so much else going on. It takes a really, really special and talented player to really want to deal with it.”

Kerr played 15 years in the NBA, winning 5 NBA titles – 3 with Chicago Bulls (96-97-98) and two with San Antonio Spurs (99, 03).

During his play days, Kerr was considered one of the best three point shooters in the NBA. He led the league in 3-point shooting percentage.

He played in 910 NBA games (30 started), averaging 6.0 ppg in 17.8 minutes per game.

As for White, he has demanded a mental health protocol, and the parties could not find common ground, leading to a stalemate and White’s suspension Jan. 6.

The Rockets reinstated White on Jan. 26 and announced the two sides had reached an agreement.

One veteran NBA player told USA TODAY Sports he wants reliability and dependability in a teammate.

He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of White’s situation.

The player had difficulty reconciling White’s point that there is no difference between a mental illness and physical illness simply because mental illness are not as recognizable or definable as a physical injury.

White recognizes he is in position to speak out. He has a guaranteed contract for a minimum of two years and will be paid at least $3 million.

“I can reach out to people and make a stink that most people can’t,” White said. “But the reality is that under ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act), if you have a disability, you can ask for the same things that I’ve asked for, no matter what job you have.”

“The people in power will take advantage of the fact that many people suffering don’t have power. That’s why that group needs people like me who can fight the fights.”

At the beginning of the season, White wanted to take his time adjusting to NBA life for multiple reasons. He took 20 flights at Iowa State last season and admits he was uncomfortable on those.

He tried Benadryl and Xanax last season, but it affected his energy. He also wasn’t ready for the NBA’s high-volume travel schedule.

White and the Rockets finally reached an accord. Neither wanted to divulge all details of their agreement, though White’s mode of transportation will include buses and flights, and White will not have an independent doctor assisting with decisions for now.

“Basketball-wise, I’m interested in the same things I am in life – helping people,” White said. “Whatever I can do to win. Anything. Anywhere I can be of assistance. Help someone get a basket. Score a basket. Cheer someone getting a basket.”

White has no idea how this will play out. He is fine living in those gray areas between darkness and light.

“I expect I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done,” White said. “Advocate for safety and health and human welfare and logical behavior.”

/USA Today/>

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