NBA

NBA Player Delonte West
Former NBA player Delonte West’s mental health was a prominent topic in media coverage of his career (photo via Slam).

Professional athletes in the United States and Canada are increasingly discussing their personal struggles with mental health on commercial media outlets. Notably, National Basketball Association (NBA) star Kevin Love has received praise for his “courageous fight” to combat the stigmatization of mental illness in sports. In a March 2018 essay for The Players’ Tribune, Love detailed his bouts with panic attacks during the NBA season, writing, “Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing.” As a successful athlete, Love has accrued lucrative endorsement deals with Banana Republic and the Built with Chocolate Milk campaign. Following the public stories of other NBA players like Channing Frye and DeMar DeRozan, national media outlets framed Love’s essay as a “courageous decision to speak candidly on mental health.”

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Kevin Durant faced criticism for his lack of “loyalty” when he decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2016-17 NBA season. (Photo from NBA.com)

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
– Karl Marx, The Manifesto of the Communist Party

Last year, Reggie Miller criticized Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors in order to win a championship. While many others made similar critiques, I find that Miller reveals a broader issue in professional sports. Miller expresses this point through the article’s title, “Kevin Durant Traded a Sacred Legacy for Cheap Jewelry.” Framing his critique through the sacred (legacy) and the profane (cheap jewelry) reveals what I see as two inter-twined, mutually-dependent yet contradictory elements that structure professional sports.

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