If you have an anxiety disorder, or if you know someone who has an anxiety disorder, or if you are a basketball fan, or if you are a human with a beating heart, stop what you’re doing and watch this awesome nine-minute documentary about NBA player Royce White from the people at Grantland.
White, who was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder when he was 18, has been very open about his anxiety, panic attacks, and fear of flying. (He caught the media’s attention last year when he and his grandfather drove ten hours to the NCAA tournament first round games.) While his frankness is inspiring to anxious kids (and adults) everywhere, NBA teams were less excited about drafting a potentially high-risk player who might not be able to keep up with the intense pressure and travel associated with a rigorous professional schedule.
The filmmakers followed White around on draft day this past June, watching him meet with his team doctor and endure the nerve-racking wait to see when—and if—he’ll be called. By all accounts White is a brilliant player and many believe he deserved to be drafted in the top ten, but his future feels very uncertain in the documentary as team after team rejects him.
We can’t say enough good things about White and his commitment to being a role model who isn’t afraid to talk about his mental health on a national stage, even when it has very real consequences for him. It’s clear that he is a courageous guy. In the film he says, “My doctor told me when I was 18—she looked at me right in the face and said, ‘You know what, basketball might not be right for you. Because you know this industry is built to defeat somebody like you.’ But I want people to see that you can deal with your disorder. You can chase your dream.”
As fans know, he does get drafted—at 16—to the Houston Rockets and coach Kevin McHale. Back in college he was offered a position to play for Kentucky, but he backed out after having a panic attack at the thought of flying there. He says he’s getting better about flying, and it’s inspiring to see him board a plane out of Des Moines to join his new team in Texas at the end of the film. “I’m very scared,” he admits. “It’s just something I’m going to have to go try and do and see how it works out.”