Health, the NBA, and Me | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Health, the NBA, and Me

By
Updated: March 21, 2018

[Photo courtesy of The Players’ Tribune]

Health, or the lack thereof, as it relates to NBA players and coaches has been pretty prevalent in the news this season. Aside from the normal barrage of injuries players have endured on the court, the spotlight has been placed on alternative health challenges that don’t often get the necessary coverage.

Steve Clifford, who recently went on the “Lowe Post” podcast with Zach Lowe to discuss this very issue, has battled heart issues in the past, and this season missed some time with severe headaches. Clifford told ESPN at the time, “The doctors, all of us, agreed that there was no way I was in a place where I could coach. Whatever I needed to do, I needed to feel better.”

Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love are all currently in the throes of battling issues of a different variety: mental health. Oubre told Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller that moving from New Orleans to Texas due to Hurricane Katrina continues to haunt him. DeRozan, initially via a concise tweet, admitted that his occasional bouts of depression weigh him down. Love decided to discuss his issues with battling mental health via The Players Tribune, where he discussed having to fight the issue, while being criticized by his teammates. Love’s article was appropriately titled, “Everyone is Going Through Something.”

It is also worth mentioning that Royce White—whose own battle with mental health issues prevented the Houston Rockets from keeping him on their roster back in 2012—was encouraged if skeptical of these recent admissions. As White told Yahoo Sports, “I believe in order for true progress to happen, there has to be genuine care.”

I have no problem admitting that I empathized with the physical and mental health issues these gentlemen continue to face on a daily basis, but I viewed these gentlemen’s issues via journalism/writer-colored glasses only. I didn’t take time to wonder how their lives are affected off the court, and I didn’t talk to them off the record when they came to Washington. I read their stories intently, but the emotions were fleeting at best.

In fact, the closest I ever came to being genuinely empathetic to what an NBA player was going through off the court was when Derrick Rose took a leave of absence while he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I found myself wondering how he was coping with being a parent, battling yet another health issue, playing on a team with players who he used to be better than, and figuring out whether he wanted to still be in the NBA.

But even with that Rose situation, I quickly forgot about it, because there was a Wizards game that next night, and another two nights later. I focused on the Wizards and other NBA stories instead. But the Tyronn Lue announcement this week was the first time I sincerely took this type of issue personally.

Lue announced that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence to deal with his health issues. He had prematurely left a few games this season after experiencing chest pains and the effects of insomnia, and after speaking with doctors and Cavaliers GM Koby Altman, he decided to take some time off. “I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season,” Lue said in a statement.

Lue’s admission resonated with me for a couple of reasons. Lue is 40 years old (just three years younger than I am), and at various stops in his career–whether it was him being stepped over by Allen Iverson or running the point for the Wizards during the Michael Jordan years–I admired his scrappy style of play. When he was thrust in the favorable, but difficult, position of coaching LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers, I was genuinely happy for him because in some irrational way I felt like I had a hand in his trajectory from journeyman to the coach of a NBA championship squad. So when he said he was struggling to stay healthy, I felt like I had suffered a bit of a setback as well.

That feeling was augmented when I read NBA.com and TNT’s David Aldridge speak about Lue via his Facebook page.

“As someone who deals with insomnia on a (too) regular basis…lack of sleep is no joke. It’s debilitating. It’s a major stress indicator AND stress producer. And it’s hard to explain the impact on you to people who do sleep well. And I have about 1/1,000,000th of the stress of a typical NBA coach. What Tyronn Lue is going through is a serious deal, and he’s a former NBA player in really good physical condition.”

Look, I am not an NBA coach like Tyronn Lue, and I definitely am not a Hall of Fame broadcaster/journalist like David Aldridge, so to compare myself and my life to anything they are going through would be disingenuous.

Having said that, I do have a unique set of circumstances and challenges that both of those gentlemen do not have. I am 43 years old (three years older than Lue, 11 years younger than Aldridge) and judging from the types of doctor visits I’ve had the past few years, I need to pay closer attention to my diet, sleep and physical activity habits.

I also have a “regular” 9-to-5 job that requires a tremendous amount of attention, I have a wife, a six-year-old, a 20-year-old who is in the Marines and stationed overseas, and I have my own issues to sift through—oh, and by the way, I cover the Washington Wizards.

On game days, I get up at 5:30 a.m. to workout, I get myself and my son ready for work/school between 7 and 8 a.m., I’m at work by 8:30, and I leave at 5 p.m. Once I leave work, I’m in Wizards-game mode and I’m attending pre-game press conferences. Then I sit through a 145-minute game (assuming there’s no overtime), and then I’m headed to post-game duties that sometimes take over an hour to get through. I’m usually home by 11 p.m., I kiss my son, talk to my wife about her day, and then a little before midnight, I start banging out an article about the game I started covering nearly seven hours earlier.

By the time I finish the article and inform my editors that it is ready to be reviewed, it is well after 1 a.m., which gives me exactly four hours to sleep and get ready to be a father, a husband, an effective manager at work and overall functioning human being. When I go to work after a Wizards game day, it doesn’t matter how much coffee I consume, and it doesn’t matter how many times I get up and walk around the building, I am tired—I am not nearly as effective as I would be with even two more hours of sleep, and I am quite sure my health isn’t hitting on all cylinders. But I continue to cover at least 40 games (home and away) as I’ve done every year since 2008.

Again, my name isn’t Candace Buckner (Washington Post), Ben Standig (The Sports Capitol) or even Michael Lee (The Vertical). They work on deadline, the don’t have the luxury of writing at their leisure like I do—they have to travel, they have to record podcasts and have different types of challenges from a journalistic perspective that I simply don’t have. So I am not at all insensitive to the life of a “real” journalist. But like Kevin Love, Tyronn Lue and Kelly Oubre, I have challenges and obstacles that until now, I have kept to myself, but deeply affect me.

Whether it is battling health challenges, balancing writing and life or just being an overall sane individual, these are issues that I face daily with varying degrees of success, and I am quite sure for every player, coach or writer who decides to reveal these issues unto us, there are other individuals in NBA circles who remain silent. Hopefully my article—that has little to do with the Wizards, and for that I apologize—will be a catalyst for change or self-reflection for someone else.

And if not, that’s OK too. I still appreciate the ability to be cathartic via this forum.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.