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Shabazz Napier Speaks up on NBA Players and Mental Health

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Napier joins players like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love to embrace conversation about NBA players and mental health.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

NBA players perform amazing feats on and off the court, and sometimes that makes them seem invincible. But of course, that doesn’t mean they are — life is life, for everybody. That is the message Shabazz Napier conveyed when he talked to NBC Sports Northwest about mental health and NBA players.

At the end of the day, I think people sometimes don’t realize how close we (NBA players) are to just being average people … we deal with the same problems no matter what.

To me it’s always cool to talk about it, especially with young kids. Just talking about how I’ve dealt with the same things they deal with on a day to day [basis].

Just because I have this amount of money doesn’t mean I’m any more different than the next guy.

Napier then references DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love as ones who led the way in speaking out about the issue. DeRozan talked about it on ESPN, and Love wrote about it for The Players’ Tribune.

We (NBA players) understand, we’ve dealt with the things that people have dealt with. No one wakes up as Superman.

David Aldridge of NBA.com revisited some of the mental health concerns in the NBA, giving a chance for players like Keyon Dooling to discuss their experiences.

On March 12th, NBA and NBPA announced a collaboration for a mental wellness program that will be independently run but funded by both the league and union. Aldridge described the new program.

The mental wellness program -- the product of almost a year of discussions between the league and union that began as the sides were working out the new Collective Bargaining Agreement -- will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams, if they want. Existing team physicians and other resources will still be available to them, too.

This new program isn’t simply a reaction to recent events; it has been in progress for a while. NBPA Director Michelle Roberts recently talked to SBNation’s Paul Flannery about the players’ struggles with fame and how it can affect their mental health.

There are very few professions that are as high anxiety as this. Can you imagine playing in a stadium in front of tens of thousands of people, being covered by journalists and media who will mock every single bad move that you make? Now with social media, you can’t even go have a drink or a cocktail without somebody. [Waves phone.]

She noted that the system was negotiated as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NBA. And admits that the program is a long time coming.

It’s in the early stages. We’ve made one hire. We’re in the process of hiring a director. I hoped that we’d have everything up and running by All-Star. Clearly we haven’t, but we want to make sure we get the right staff so that this is the success it needs to be.

We’re working on it, but it’s a shame that this hasn’t been given attention a long, long time ago.