Royce White Making NBA Debut for Love of Game, Not as Mental Health Ambassador

Joe FlynnContributor IMarch 21, 2014

RENO, NV - March 7:  Royce White #33 of the Reno Bighorns surrounded by teammates during a huddle before their game against the Idaho Stampede March 7, 2014 at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Calvert/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Calvert/Getty Images

Controversial forward Royce White will finally play an NBA game.

The former first-round pick, who made news across the country for his outspoken views on mental illness, was given a 10-day contract by the Sacramento Kings. After playing four games for the NBA D-League's Reno Bighorns—during which he averaged 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game on 36.7 percent shooting—White has been called up by the big club.

What has inspired White during this two-year odyssey? According to an interview with ESPN's James Ham, White is motivated by a good, old-fashioned love of the game: "I’m playing [basketball] because I love it. I’m playing because I want to. It brings me joy. Not to bring about any social change." 

White was originally chosen with the No. 16 pick in the 2012 draft by the Houston Rockets, despite the fact that the former Iowa State star suffers from an anxiety disorder and has a pronounced fear of flying.

Though White never played for Houston, he did suit up for the D-League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers for 16 games during the 2012-13 season. But he chose to leave the team before the postseason, citing concerns over the travel schedule, per the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen.

The Rockets traded White and the draft rights to Turkish forward Furkan Aldemir to the Philadelphia 76ers for future draft considerations in the 2013 offseason. He did not travel with the Sixers on their preseason trip to Europe—a concession made by the team because of White's well-known fear of flying, according to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News—but did play in five preseason games, averaging five points and 4.4 rebounds on 39.1 percent shooting before being released.

Despite his tumultuous path to Sacramento, Kurt Helin of believes the Kings are making a "good gamble" by taking a chance on White. The forward has a versatile game that could really benefit the Kings. 

Having already been eliminated from the Western Conference playoff race, the Kings do not have a great deal riding on the Royce White experiment. If he plays well, they can discuss signing him in the summer; if he doesn't, he'll be gone soon enough.


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