Royce White: ‘It’s strange to see people take the credit for something that you pioneered’

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Mental health in the NBA is having its moment.

The Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan, Cavaliers’ Kevin Love and Wizards’ Kelly Oubre have all spoken out about their struggles, and all three have been widely praised and supported.

That wasn’t the case a half decade ago with Royce White.

The Rockets drafted White No. 16 in 2012, knowing he had an anxiety disorder. Despite advocating for protocols to handle his issues, White and Houston never got on the same page. He said the NBA preferred the easier route of not having to deal with him. He quickly fell out of the league, though he had a short stint with the Kings in 2014.


I empathize with White. We’ve made good strides societally with mental health, but probably too late for his NBA career.

We can still give him his just due for trailblazing this movement, though.

As far as accusing others of staying silent in the midst of White’s struggles, I’m not sure that’s fair. Everyone should be entitled to reveal these types of personal issues publicly as they see fit. DeRozan and Love might not have been ready then. (Oubre wasn’t yet in the league.)

In many ways, DeRozan was the perfect player to ignite this movement. His mentality was never previously questioned, so nobody is used this as an excuse to corroborate preconceived notions about him. And DeRozan is a very good player who’s clearly managing his issues well enough to still thrive on the court.

That’s a key differentiation from White. The All-Star gets more credit than the player who can’t even get on the court. That’s not necessarily fair, but that’s how it is.

Perhaps White would’ve become a successful NBA player if he received the same level of support DeRozan, Love and Oubre are getting now. It’s a shame we won’t know. But it’s also good we’re making progress in handling these issues.