One of the perks of being an NBA player is getting paid to play basketball while traveling the world. Today's NBA is much different than the NBA of the past. Players travel on spacious, chartered planes, and fans regularly see Twitpics of their favorite superstars sprawled out sleeping on these flights.
It's not a bad life, to say the least.
What happens, though, when a player is scared of flying? Like, terrified of flying?
In an interesting column over at NBA.com, Scott Howard-Cooper examines this issue through the challenges that are waiting for Iowa State's Royce White as he prepares to go through the pre-draft process.
White, a 6-foot-8 small forward who averaged 13.4 points, more than nine rebounds and five assists per game, has a deep-rooted fear of flying. It's so intense that it caused him to back out of a decision to go to Kentucky because he wanted something closer to home, somewhere he wouldn't have to fly to.
White is well aware that the admission of his anxiety disorder is something that could hold him back from being selected in this year's draft.
"A lot of people think I might not be drafted in the first round because I'm scared to death of flying," he told people at Orchard Place, according to the Des Moines Register. "I hope that's not the case. A lot of people don't know that I deal with a little [obsessive-compulsion disorder] as well."
White wanted to be an inspiration to others in his position. NBA executives will note the honesty—and, perhaps, his decision to be more forthcoming than he maybe should have been.
Howard-Cooper also spoke with an unnamed NBA GM who talked about the challenges that the team which selects White will face.
"There's guys that have been in the draft before where there have been concerns they didn't like to fly, but Royce is very unique," one general manager said. "It's going to be something that a team taking him on is going to have to have something in place, whether it's a staff member or a plan in place to help him accommodate some of his fears with the travel aspect because that's such a huge part of an NBA season. It's going to have to take a team getting creative and putting some resources in place to help him get past some of the issues with the travel."
When you stop and think about all of the things that teams have dealt with over the years with respect to their athletes, this seems pretty minor. This isn't a character issue, it isn't a professionalism issue, it isn't anything you have to worry about with respect to how White will represent your organization.
It is, however, extremely tough to select a guy when you're not sure how he will be affected until he's in the situation. Will he be able to get on the plane each night and make it to the next destination city on time? Will the chartered flights make him feel at ease? Can a team arrange for him to drive between cities when possible?
It's an interesting thing to consider. When drafting players, teams have to look at all of the baggage that their draftees will be bringing along with them. While you draft for talent, you are not drafting talent alone. You're drafting a human being with positive attributes and negative elements that sometimes need to be worked through.
It's a positive that White shared his anxiety disorder. It'll be a shame if it hurts him.
By the numbers, he isn't the only player to suffer from an issue like this, even if there are precious few others who speak up. Not even in the league, White is setting a strong example for his peers.
Being a little different is okay. We've all got our things to work on and work through. While none of us know how this will shake out next season for White or how it will affect him come draft night, we do know that whatever team selects him is gaining an honest player with an unshakable inner strength.
That's a definite positive however you look at the rest of the situation.