In a first-person piece published on The Players’ Tribune Tuesday morning, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love detailed his experiences dealing with panic attacks, including one he says he suffered during a game against the Atlanta Hawks back in November.
The panic attack against Atlanta, which caused Love to leave the court and retreat to the locker room before a staffer transported him to a local hospital for observation, reportedly wasn’t his only one this year. According to Cleveland.com, a panic attack was also the reason he left just three minutes into the team’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 20. Publicly, the team attributed his departure from the game to a bout with migraines.
Though Love does not mention it in his essay, which is titled “Everyone is going through something,” Love told Cavs teammates the reason he left The Q before the end of a loss to Oklahoma City Thunder in January — in which he left the game after three minutes for what the team said at the time was migraines — was because of his panic attacks.
That game, a 148-124 loss, holds significance to the course of Cleveland’s season.
In a now-infamous Jan. 22 team meeting, several of Love’s teammates — reportedly Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade — called him out for leaving the game and missing a subsequent practice. In the meeting, per Cleveland.com, Love disclosed the panic attacks to his teammates.
When asked about what happened in the meeting, Thomas said he didn’t call Love out, he simply “asked why he wasn’t at the game supporting his teammates.”
“We didn’t know why he wasn’t on the bench supporting his teammates and why he wasn’t in the locker room after the game. And then he missed the next practice, and it still wasn’t addressed,” Thomas said. “So we wanted to address it when we came together and everybody was there. And that’s what it was. It was no bigger than that. Whoever reported that it was and we were bashing Kevin Love, there was nothing to bash him about. We just wanted to know where he was and why he didn’t play.”
Thomas was later traded to the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline while Wade was shipped to the Miami Heat.
Love, 29, says the panic attacks have completely changed his perspective on mental health and led him to seek therapy. In particular, Love began to ponder why he intended on keeping his experiences to himself.
A few more days passed. Things were going great on the court, but something was weighing on me. Why was I so concerned with people finding out?
It was a wake-up call, that moment. I’d thought the hardest part was over after I had the panic attack. It was the opposite. Now I was left wondering why it happened — and why I didn’t want to talk about it. Call it a stigma or call it fear or insecurity — you can call it a number of things — but what I was worried about wasn’t just my own inner struggles but how difficult it was to talk about them. I didn’t want people to perceive me as somehow less reliable as a teammate, and it all went back to the playbook I’d learned growing up.
This was new territory for me, and it was pretty confusing. But I was certain about one thing: I couldn’t bury what had happened and try to move forward. As much as part of me wanted to, I couldn’t allow myself to dismiss the panic attack and everything underneath it. I didn’t want to have to deal with everything sometime in the future, when it might be worse. I knew that much.
Love has been out the last several weeks with a hand injury and is reportedly still a few more weeks from returning to the floor. Without him, Cleveland’s play has been up-and-down. The Cavs have a 37-26 record and hold the No. 3 seed in the standings by just 0.5 games over the No. 4 seed Indiana Pacers.
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