National Basketball Association
National Basketball Association

Kevin Love Steals The Show

Updated Jul. 17, 2020 3:22 p.m. ET

Kevin Love is a 5-time NBA All-Star, Olympic gold medalist, NBA Champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and likely will be a Hall of Famer when his career ends.

But the work he has done in helping bring awareness to mental health might be what he's remembered for most.

On Sunday, Love received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2020 ESPY Awards for his efforts in growing mental health awareness in the sports community and beyond.

Tennis player Arthur Ashe became revered for not only being the only black male tennis player to win Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, but for his work bringing awareness to HIV and AIDS in the 1990s. The award honors those who have made contributions outside of the boundaries of sports and enacted change for the betterment of society.

Previous winners of the award include Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Billie Jean King and Bill Russell.

In his acceptance speech, Love promised to continue using his voice to bring awareness to issues important to him and important to society, much like those before him.

"I'm not going to try and do justice to all that these trail blazing icons have achieved, but I want to recognize and remind you that when they spoke up, they were not greeted with the warm reception that I was. They knew that change isn't always pretty, but that history would be on their side. And in light of all that is going on in this country today, I accept this award as both an honor and a challenge. A challenge to not only continue on my path, but to push beyond it and stay vocal even when silence feels safer."


Love revealed his struggles with anxiety in March 2018 in an article for The Players' Tribune, where he detailed a panic attack that he experienced during a game.

"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."

From that point forward, Love charged himself with the task of making sure those that battle anxiety and depression aren't just well-represented, but also taken care of.

In fact, when the NBA season was suspended in March due to COVID-19, Love donated $100,000 to Quicken Loans Arena workers in Cleveland, Ohio, through the Kevin Love Fund, many of whom would be out of work due to the pandemic.

He cited the stress, fear, and anxiety that those workers might be facing during uncertain times as a key reason he pledged the six-figure donation.

And Love's commitment to the fighting the battle hasn't stopped there.

Just one day after receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, on Monday,  Love pledged an additional $500,000 to his alma mater's psychology department.

During his acceptance speech on Sunday, Love said San Antonio Spurs guard Demar Derozan served as his inspiration in him speaking up about mental health awareness.

On Feb. 17, 2018, two days before the 2018 NBA All-Star Game and a month before Love's piece in The Players' Tribune, DeRozan spoke up about his battle with depression.

DeRozan then went into further detail about his battle with depression and the importance of raising mental health awareness in an interview with Doug Smith of The Toronto Star a week later.

“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day. We all got feelings ... all of that. Sometimes ... it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”

Love and Derozan aren't alone in this battle. Since Love's piece in The Players' Tribune, former NBA players have also done their part, with Metta World Peace auctioning off his 2010 NBA Championship ring and donating the $500,000 proceeds to mental health nonprofits.

Retired NBA guard Keyon Dooling, in his own story for The Players' Tribune, detailed his battles with mental health disorder and the stigmas that run deep in the African American community.

He now serves as a player wellness counselor in the NBA's Mental Health and Wellness program.

 Leaders lead through words, but also by example.

And plenty of players have followed Love's lead, making him a worthy recipient of the 2020 Arthur Ashe Courage Award.


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