One of the big revelations in the last NBA season was players like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming out and speaking about their depression and anxiety. Since their brave actions, the topic of mental health has come to the forefront of basketball with the league working with the players’ association to provide necessary services for those in need.
This entire process has been extensively reported by ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan whose five-part series on the NBA’s mental health situation has focused on players and owners alike. That included talking to Jeanie Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, who maintained that her organization does not “shy away” from players who deal with mental health issues (h/t Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll):
“We [the Lakers] don’t shy away from players with mental health issues because our team has already drafted players with those issues, and they have been very successful for us,’” Buss says. “What you have to look at is, are they coping with it? How are they coping with it? Does it lead them to make impulsive decisions that are detrimental to their health and well-being? Sometimes medication is the answer, sometimes it isn’t.’”
The NBA has a reputation as a progressive league but while that’s usually true, there are times when it’s clear that it still lags behind. MacMullan reported earlier this week that some owners are demanding information about players’ mental health in exchange for setting up their aforementioned services.
There’s no way of knowing where Buss stands on that particular issue. As it stands, she is at least demonstrating a level of compassion for an important subject. It’s also not the first time Buss has come to the defense of players speaking out on social issues, as she released a statement protecting LeBron James after comments made by Donald Trump regarding the forward’s intelligence. Not only do Buss’ comments help those players struggling with these issues as one of the league’s most influential owners, but they have a way of diminishing the stigma that exists across the world and all industries.
The NBA can be at the forefront of change on what is becoming an ever-growing issue, if they manage to do it correctly.