It would be a challenge to name an NBA rookie who created more controversy and headlines without logging a single minute of run than Philadelphia 76ers forward Royce White. Drafted last year by the Houston Rockets, White was widely regarded as a risk because of . For the time being, the skeptics haven”t been silenced. White and the Rockets were never able to establish common ground on, and as a result, he spent the year mostly estranged from the team. It was no surprise to see White moved to Philly this summer, as Houston made space for Dwight Howard. His NBA debut remains a chapter waiting to be written.
, while admittedly fascinating, often made it unclear whether he wanted to be a professional basketball player, a mental health advocate, or whether he even knows what he wants, period. Talking directly with White, however, reveals a considerably more grounded mission statement and mindset. White clearly understands the delicate complexity for all sides. Working without a blueprint means trial and error, and also sometimes a mess. However, he”s confident about suiting up for the Sixers come fall, and seemingly more secure that any problems can be addressed on a case-by-base basis.
We spoke at length with White Monday afternoon about topics including his mental health advocacy, his NBA goals, the positive and negative aspects of Twitter, and the importance of music in his life. (I have a feeling we could have done the entire show just on John Lennon, Prince and Frank Sinatra.) You can hear the show by clicking on the module above or the link at the bottom of the post. Below is an excerpt of the conversation beginning after Brian noted how Kobe Bryant”s famous competitiveness and ferocious work ethic has been self-described, perhaps only partially tongue-in-cheek, as pathological. “Whether it”s Kobe and that kind of hyper-competitiveness or other people generally — artists, and people who have some personality attribute that”s outside the norm,” he asked. “How do you explain the difference between something like that, that”s maybe something that”s maybe an extreme version of “normal,” and something that is a disorder?”
“I think the tough thing that we have to deal with is that there may not be a difference,” responded White. “And I think in the mental health community — obviously, confidentiality is a huge piece and why there is such a disconnection between what we know about people who deal with mental heath disorders or who we know deals with them. Because of the stigma, people don”t want you to know, therefore [we] don”t know, because they have that right to privacy. But I think if you just opened up the book and could see everybody who deals with a mental health disorder, you would see a lot of people that are highly successful, like a Kobe Bryant. I went to Nike camps as a high school prospect, and I heard stories of Kobe Bryant working out until he blacks out. Right? And that”s definitely — and again, I don”t want to try and diagnose Kobe Bryant, but that definitely sounds like symptoms or traces of an OCD. Just straight obsession with the game or with success or being better or whatever the idea in his head that he wants, he”s obsessed with getting it. And that doesn”t have to be a bad thing. It can be a dangerous thing, obviously, if you”re blacking out, but if he can do it, he can do it. Right?
“But I use myself more when I talk about being hyper-competitive. When I first started with music, I remember there was this place called Uptown in Minneapolis and my friend had a studio there. This is right when I left the University of Minnesota and took that time off. I stayed there for six weeks straight in a room that had no windows. Basically you can”t tell what time of day it is in there. I was there six weeks straight and I probably lost 25 pounds. I wasn”t eating normally. But I was happy. I was happy, because I was fine tuning my ability to produce something that I love, which is music. And the crazy thing is — (laughs) crazy, I should probably change that word – the ironic thing is I saw my family practitioner who first diagnosed me with anxiety, and she said that during that six week period, that was the best that I ever looked, in terms of color and in my face and my attention and how I was acting with my anxiety, because obviously she can pick up on things just on how you”re acting physically. She said it was the best I”d ever looked, which is really weird, because you would think that six weeks in a studio with no food and irregular sleep, you would look terrible. But that”s just not the way the brain looks. The brain is a very complex thing. It”s the most complex organ in the body.”
Thus, I noted, one man”s “obsessive” can be another man”s “healthy,” which only further complicates the issue.
“Right,” agreed White. “And one thing that makes somebody healthy could kill somebody else. Some people obsess about things and it kills them. With drugs (for example). It can be fatal. That”s why you have to pay attention to it. The first thing is, you have to pay attention. And the second thing, you have to genuinely care enough to say that you”re going to give the kind of right support. And then next you have to know that it”s very individually based. You”re not going to be able to write up a blueprint and say this is how we”re going to do it for everybody, because that”s going to be irresponsible, and you”re just gonna end up doing somebody a disservice.”