Kevin Love Smashed the Mental Health Taboo. Here's How Much That Matters.

The Cavs’ last man standing represents a new kind of masculinity. An appreciation, as part of the B/R POWER 50 Speak Up list.
photo of Brandon SneedBrandon Sneed@@brandonsneedWriter-at-Large, B/R MagJuly 23, 2018

Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers' star power forward, is trying to rewrite the playbook for how boys can learn to become men. It boils down to one thing, really: "Be truthful with myself."

Love's quest to shift the masculinity paradigm started with personal experience. He had long been living with monsters in the closet of his mind. Emotions that made him uncomfortable. Made him hurt. He tried to not let these things bother him. That's what the playbook preached.

Until one day, last November, when he had a panic attack. During a team huddle in the third quarter of the Cavs' home game against the Atlanta Hawks, Love bolted from the court and frantically ran through the labyrinth of the arena to the locker room. He eventually found his way to the training room, where he lied down supine, looking up at the ceiling. Breathing had become difficult.

A member of the Cavs staff found him and took him to the hospital. Tests were run. No problems were found. Relieved, Love played the Cavs' next game and dropped 32 points.

That's where the old playbook would say to leave things. Move on and act like nothing ever happened. Love couldn't do it. Instead, he thought more deeply about what had occurred. Thought more about that old playbook and the way it strictly forbade him from talking about it—forbade him from possibly appearing weak in any way. The more he thought about it, the less he believed it.

For starters, Love reasoned, a panic attack came from the brain, and the brain is a physical organ. And its effects manifest throughout the physical body. Thus, a panic attack is a physical problem, he surmised. "As real as a broken hand or a sprained ankle."

This led him to a deeper realization about what "being a man" actually means: finding the courage to face your weaknesses so you can make yourself stronger. In a personal essay on the Players' Tribune dissecting his struggles, Love wrote that he had talked to a therapist, which helped him. But "the biggest lesson ... wasn't about a therapist—it was about confronting the fact that I needed help."

In so doing, Love saw "the power of saying things out loud."

That's the thing about monsters: They work best by scaring you in the dark. When you stop letting them hide, you learn how to beat them. Then you can help everyone else beat their monsters, too.

This might explain why Love's essay quickly went viral. Some 6,000 people have emailed him to share their own mental health stories. (He's read every one.) And many have reached out or shared Love's story on social media.

Amid the sea of responses, one stood out in particular: Love's then-teammate LeBron James tweeted his support. "You're even more powerful now than ever before @kevinlove!!!" James wrote. "Salute and respect brother! ✊🏾💪🏾🙏🏾"


Brandon Sneed is a Writer-at-Large for B/R Mag. Follow him on Twitter: @brandonsneed.

Check out more conversation-starters on the B/R POWER 50 Speak Up list:

1. Aly Raisman
2. LeBron James
3. Last Men Kneeling
4. Pop & Kerr
5. Adam Rippon
6. Kevin Love
7. Breanna Stewart
8. Josh Rosen
9. Vivek Ranadive
10. Enes Kanter

Explore the B/R POWER 50, a list of the most influential people in sports culture right now >>