In recent days, prominent NBA players have written and spoken eloquently about issues with mental wellness and, with that as the backdrop, the NBA and NBPA are reportedly close to a very encouraging step in significantly addressing the topic. David Aldridge of NBA.com wrote extensively about a plan on Tuesday that includes a partnership between the league and the players association in naming a Director of Mental Health and Wellness with the vision to create what is described as a “comprehensive” program.
Kevin Love’s disclosure of a panic attack in The Players Tribune created a lot of discussion and both DeMar DeRozan and Kelly Oubre have reflected on personal experiences in the public sphere. Prior to that, former first round pick Royce White had a well chronicled back and forth with the league and his team, the Houston Rockets, about a program for his mental well-being, which Aldridge references as an example of a potential hiccup in the proposed plan. Within that plan it is reportedly “not clear if the director will have the ability to unilaterally decide if a player dealing with a mental wellness issue should not play in a given game or games to deal with those issues, regardless of what the player’s team medical staff may think.”
Still, the program (and the director) are said to be running independently with funding from both sides of the aisle in this case and this has reportedly been an ongoing discussion for “almost a year” through the lens of the CBA. As part of the program, players will be allowed to search for, and accept, counsel that goes beyond what the team provides and the new wellness program will have “authority and a significant role for players who seek his (or her) help.”
While details remain at least somewhat slim at this point, it makes all the sense in the world that the league would move forward on this type of initiative, especially in light of the openness of its players in discussing the topic recently. There is plenty of room for this grow but the very existence of a program like this seems both appropriate and necessary.