Somewhere along the way, Royce White contends, his story got twisted. The information about his fear of flying became misinformation. People started to believe the blogs and the breathless reports about why a first-round draft pick was failing to make it in the NBA.
It felt to White as if every story he read was one cut-and-pasted version of another.
"Me saying that I don't like to fly," White recalls, "turned into 'He can’t fly.'"
The thing was, White said, he never refused to fly. He flew to summer league with the Houston Rockets, the team that drafted and later suspended him for failing to report to the Development League. He flew in the preseason with the Philadelphia 76ers, who traded for him and waived him three months later.
He flew with the Sacramento Kings, who gave him two 10-day contracts before deciding not to re-sign him. And he recently flew to join the Clippers’ summer league team in Orlando, Fla., where the 24-year-old forward who has played a total of nine NBA minutes is trying to revive his career.
"All this time I've been flying and that has never changed," White said during a telephone interview. "The way the story has been built around it has people thinking otherwise."
White said he hasn’t liked flying since he was a child, though there was no specific incident that triggered his fear. He was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder when he was 17.
White is not in therapy for his condition but said there are an army of specialists he can reach out to at any time for help. He likened contacting them to “calling a basketball coach and talking about a play from last night’s game.”
There hasn’t been much to discuss when it comes to White’s NBA career. He never played with the Rockets after they made him the 16th pick in the 2012 draft, earning a three-week suspension for refusing to report to their Development League affiliate. White said at the time he was standing up to the league’s lack of protocols for dealing with mental health issues.
The Rockets traded White to Philadelphia in July 2013, but the 76ers waived him shortly before their season opener. He finally made his NBA debut with Sacramento in March 2014 but played in only three games before being released.
White spent all of last season working out at home in hopes of obtaining another chance. He hopes he’s found it with the Clippers after they invited him to play with their summer league team.
"The Clippers said they wanted to understand what the issues are Royce has so they can try to help him," said Brian Brundage, White's agent. "Hats off to the Clippers for making this guy feel welcome."
The Clippers aren’t entirely selfless in their interest, of course; they would be thrilled if the 6-foot-8, 268-pound prospect could plug a hole on their undermanned bench. White hasn’t impressed in the early going of summer league, failing to score in his first two games before sitting out another game Tuesday.
But White said it’s too early to attach definitive labels to his career.
"You can’t have busted or washed out or not lived up to your potential," the former Iowa State star said, "if you have played only nine minutes."
White has largely refused to engage his critics on Twitter other than to respond with the hashtag #BeWell, saying that "it does nothing for me to go after them in a hateful way." He said the fight to support those with mental health issues is much bigger than himself, citing women with postpartum depression and soldiers who return from active duty, among others.
White's agent said he has doctor-prescribed medication he can take to deal with any anxiety that arises on flights, but would be willing to take a team charter should he sign with another NBA team.
When White flew from Los Angeles to Orlando last week, he found himself on a plane with several basketball acquaintances who inquired about his disorder.
"Even they go into it like, 'I thought you were scared to fly,'" White recalled. "'What's up with that?'"
It represented another trickle in the stream of distortions that White fears could drown his career.
"My story is an example of how someone can be misinformed," said White, who added that he is willing to spend however long it takes to set the record straight. The ultimate bonus would be getting to do so while playing in the NBA.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch