Rarely in sports do I ever find myself truly “rooting” for someone.
I’ve admired athletes in the past for their star qualities, highlight-reel plays and overall performance, but I don’t root for them.
I just enjoy what they do.
In the case of newly drafted Houston Rocket forward Royce White, I can finally say that I am “rooting” for a professional athlete.
I’m rooting for him to not only be a success in the NBA, but to overcome something that I personally have to deal with on a regular and sometimes daily basis.
Royce White has an anxiety disorder.
I have an anxiety disorder.
Right off the bat, I can totally relate with him in that respect.
White’s anxiety can be traced back to his days playing basketball when he was just 10 years old. During a practice, one of his friends collapsed to the ground after doing wind sprints and started drooling from the mouth. White was in the ambulance as his friend was rushed to the hospital after suffering a cardiac abnormality.
To this very day, White has a fear of doing conditioning runs.
In 2008, White was diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder”, which means Royce lives in “constant worry”. Even the slightest daily activity can trigger an anxious feeling in White’s brain.
He’s also admitted to having a huge fear of flying, which was a knack against him entering the 2012 NBA Draft considering the amount of air travel that is required to be an NBA player.
“Here’s how it goes. I’m scared (going) to the airport, I’m scared going up, I’m uncomfortable in the air and I feel like a million bucks when we hit the runway.” – White at the Rockets introductory press conference
The Rockets organization will be working with White over the course of the season to help with his treatment and his development. There are even talks of White securing his own bus to travel to games that are within a reasonable enough distance to drive, such as San Antonio and Dallas.
“What it’s going to look like is every game that’s drivable, I’m going to get a bus for myself, and I’m going to make that bus feel like home so that there’s a level of consistency in a job where inconsistency is very apparent because of the schedule. I’m going to try and level that out and make sure that my stress levels stay low and that my rest is regular and that my meals are regular and that as much as I can, draw consistency from a very inconsistent schedule. …
“People with mental illness, one of the most important things is that they have that consistency and routine. The girth of (my request) was, ‘Can I travel by bus to close enough games?’ “
White was an outstanding talent at Iowa State University. He averaged 13.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists a game while shooting over 53% from the field. He’s got a solid frame at 6’8, 260 pounds that will translate well to the NBA game, whether he decides to play at the 3 (more ideal) or the 4.
What overshadows all of Royces talent is his anxiety disorder, and that’s a shame because the potential for Royce is off the charts.
Living with the disorder isn’t a cup of tea and I know that first hand. Waking up 3-4 times a night because your mind and heart is racing is a scary feeling and can even resemble that of a heart attack. Feeling like you have no control over your surroundings (even when you do in theory) is also a very frightening thing to endure.
I have all the respect in the world for Royce White. Knowing fully well that revealing his truth to the basketball world would more than likely have dropped him down NBA Draft boards, he still had the inner strength to come forward and say “I deal with an anxiety disorder”.
Will it keep him from being successful in this league?
It’s really hard to say.
All of those NBA teams who had their skepticism about White on draft night were right in having them. No one really knows how or if he can adapt to this fast-paced, constantly changing lifestyle.
Will he be able to play on a nightly basis? Will he be able to make practices and long road trips?
Hell……will he quit?
The talent is there. From a pure basketball standpoint, White should have a long, prosperous NBA career because he can be that good a player for the Houston Rockets.
I’ll be pulling for Royce White every step of the way.
To overcome this disorder on such a grand scale could have such an impact on those who deal with anxiety in their every day lives, such as myself.
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports