Justise Winslow credits NBA's mental health awakening for his own redemption

Yahoo Sports
Fourth-year <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/miami/" data-ylk="slk:Miami Heat">Miami Heat</a> forward <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5470/" data-ylk="slk:Justise Winslow">Justise Winslow</a> is enjoying his best season for more than just basketball. (Getty Images)
Fourth-year Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow is enjoying his best season for more than just basketball. (Getty Images)

A year after NBA All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love respectively shared their stories of depression and anxiety, the larger impact of their openness is beginning to show, and there may be no better example than the personal evolution of Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow ever since.

In a must-read feature from the Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang, Winslow and his family and friends detailed what they described as “a really dark time” and “storm” in the 2015 first-round pick’s life.

Everything from being a much-hyped 10th overall pick to the Twitter insults that resulted from failing to meet the hype felt like a weight on his shoulders, and it nearly broke him after a torn labrum cost him all but 18 games of the 2016-17 season, Winslow told Chiang. He returned the following season, but the ups and downs of another inconsistent season snowballed into a cycle of sleepless nights.

“There were times when I didn’t know my place in this league or if I had a place or if I should go to the G League,” Winslow told the Miami Herald. “There were times when I couldn’t sleep at night, not sleeping on nights before games. I was up just thinking, on the floor just thinking way too much and just not playing instinctively. I’m getting better with being open and talking about it. I think that’s the biggest key, just finding someone you feel comfortable talking to about it.”


“It’s a lot of things, dealing with my old girlfriend, family issues, their health, my health. There are just a lot of things that go into it. It’s just that stuff starts to pile up, and you start putting stuff off and the stress levels just keep going up. Then eventually you have something you haven’t handled from months ago and it blows up. It’s not easy being in this league. You get paid a lot of money and we have jobs to do, of course. But we still have the same stresses.”

Seeing DeRozan, Love and the other NBA players who followed their lead open up about mental health issues encouraged Winslow to share his story — with family, friends and finally everyone.

“I don’t know [DeRozan] personally, but to see him talk about it, Kevin Love and Kelly Oubre, it was inspiring because they weren’t afraid to show their vulnerabilities,” added Winslow. “That’s what it’s really all about. The first step is admitting that you need help and that’s so hard to do sometimes, but they did it and they inspired me to start speaking up to my friends or somebody I wanted to reach out and talk to. That was definitely inspiring.”

He is lucky to have that support system, and the NBA is benefiting from it. Winslow is enjoying his best season, averaging 13.3 points (on better than 40 percent shooting from 3-point range), 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game since Goran Dragic’s injury forced him to assume more playmaking duties.

Now, hopefully his story snowballs into another success. That’s the kind of cycle we all could use.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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