Sometimes you truly don’t know what a person is going through. After Game 5 the other day, Paul George opened up about being in a dark place in the NBA bubble.
“The bubble got the best of me,” George said. “I was just in a dark place. I really wasn’t here, I checked out. These past couple of games, it was just difficult. But shoutout to the people that stood behind me, that were in my corner. The positivity of my teammates, my family, my friends, everybody. Thanks everybody that reached out to me. I was just in a bad place. But I found my way. I’m back, and I look forward to the rest of this run.”
“I underestimated mental health,” he said to reporters after the game. “Anxiety, a little bit of depression. Games 2, 3, 4 I felt like I wasn’t there.”
A few days have gone by, and George spoke with the media on Saturday for the first time since publicly talking about his inner-battles. The first question he was asked was in regards to what Danny Green had to say about him. Green opened up with reporters and said he knows exactly what George is going through.
“I mean, we’re all dealing with it,” George said when asked about the personal struggles. “You know, whether I was the first to say it or not, we’re all dealing with it. I’ve had conversations with guys here, and there’s been a couple guys that is like, man, I’m happy I’m not the only one. I’ve been dealing with this, too. It’s a thing in here. It’s a brotherhood. Danny has got my back, I got his. We support one another.”
George’s teammate Landry Shamet also spoke with the media on Saturday morning. He commended George for having the courage to open up about his struggles.
“Well, first off, if you can have the courage to come out and speak about what’s going on in your head and mentally, psychologically, I don’t care who you are, if you’re Paul George or you’re a regular person on the street, like that’s empowering and should be taken that way from anybody who was able to see it and hear it,” Shamet said. “So obviously first off, I’m proud of him for being able to be open about that. And secondly, I think obviously like I just said, it’s Paul George doing that, saying that, then it shows the reality of regardless of who you are, we all have our things that we have to deal with and cope with and can visit those dark places sometimes. It should be eye-opening and received well by anybody who heard it.”
George talked about potentially leaving the bubble if his depression got too severe. He said he’s sure that the Clippers would have understood his decision to leave. However, once he reached out for help, he was in a much better place.
“I mean, that’s where the decision was made that I could continue to keep going, because of the help that I got,” George said. “I mean, that’s just where it started. It was just great advice all around, everyone telling me they feel the same way, just continue to be me, play my game. All of that helped, just their views and perspective and the way they view me. It kind of just changed my whole spirits. Again, that’s just where it started.”
Doc Rivers said that the NBA is starting wake up to the reality that there’s no difference between a sprained ankle and something going wrong with your brain.
“The brain is probably even more important,” Rivers said. “But it’s been such a taboo subject in society and probably even more taboo in sports because of the machismo. We’re so tough and we’ve got to reflect this toughness about us, this macho about us. Anything with the mind is weak, you know. That’s been the messaging throughout society.
“I think it’s more and more about Kenneth Cole, the great shoe designer, came up with that campaign that I got involved in during COVID about the mind and making it — it’s okay to not be okay. I just think we’ve just got to keep talking about it. The more we talk about it, the more we make it normal. There’s people out there in our league that will open up that we didn’t know had issues, and then we can give them help.”