NBA commissioner Adam Silver made waves in the sports world by openly discussing players’ mental health, anxiety, and lack of happiness at the 13th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March 2019. His remarks opened the door for wider discussion of mental health issues in the US. Suicide is on the rise in the US and the topic of mental health is constantly mentioned, yet the connection between sports and mental illness is largely understated.
In his remarks, Silver identified what he feels are the factors that affect NBA players’ mental health, including social media, isolation, constant criticism, loneliness, a lack of communication and the pedestal of celebrity. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, having increased 33% between 1999 and 2017.
In March 2018, Kevin Love, a star for the Cleveland Cavaliers, wrote about his experience with panic attacks. The previous month, the Toronto Raptor’s all-star, DeMar DeRozan, gave an candid interview about living with depression. As the National Review reported, Charles Barkley, a former NBA all-star who is now retired, called Adam Silver’s remarks “bogus.”
David French, “The NBA ‘Happiness Crisis’ and the Price of Constant Criticism,” National Review, March 8, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/the-nba-happiness-crisis-and-the-price-of-constant-criticism/.
Jared Keller, “The U.S. Suicide Rate Is at Its Highest in a Half-Century,” Pacific Standard, December 4, 2018, https://psmag.com/news/the-suicide-rate-is-at-its-highest-in-a-half-century.
Tim Newman, “Is Anxiety Increasing in the United States?,” Medical News Today, September 5, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322877.php.
Nicole Yang, “At Sloan, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Talks Candidly about Players’ Mental Health,” Boston.com, March 1, 2019, https://www.boston.com/sports/nba/2019/03/01/adam-silver-sloan-nba-unhappy.
Student Researcher: Kathleen Szwed (College of Western Idaho)
Faculty Evaluator: Michelle Mahoney (College of Western Idaho)