Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Kevin Love revealed Tuesday that he suffered a panic attack during a game earlier this season and is now seeing a therapist to address mental health issues.
In an article headlined "Everyone Is Going Through Something," published Tuesday on the Players' Tribune, Love wrote that he never thought about his own mental health for the first 29 years of his life. But that changed during a game against Atlanta on Nov. 5, two months and three days after his birthday.
He got winded unusually early during the game and made just one basket and two free throws during the first half.
"After halftime, it all hit the fan," Love wrote. "Coach [Tyronn] Lue called a timeout in the third quarter. When I got to the bench, I felt my heart racing faster than usual. Then I was having trouble catching my breath. It's hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn't hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out. When I got up to walk out of the huddle, I knew I couldn't reenter the game — like, literally couldn't do it physically.
"Coach Lue came up to me. I think he could sense something was wrong. I blurted something like, "I'll be right back," and I ran back to the locker room. I was running from room to room, like I was looking for something I couldn't find. Really I was just hoping my heart would stop racing. It was like my body was trying to say to me, You're about to die. I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe."
Love did not return to the game. At the time, it was reported he had stomach pain and shortness of breath. He was taken to a local hospital, where tests showed he was fine physically. Two days later, Love scored 32 points in a 124-119 win over Milwaukee.
"I remember how relieved I was to be back on the court and feeling more like myself," Love wrote. "But I distinctly remember being more relieved than anything that nobody had found out why I had left the game against Atlanta. A few people in the organization knew, sure, but most people didn't and no one had written about it.
"A few more days passed. Things were going great on the court, but something was weighing on me.
"Why was I so concerned with people finding out?
"It was a wake-up call, that moment. I'd thought the hardest part was over after I had the panic attack. It was the opposite. Now I was left wondering why it happened — and why I didn't want to talk about it."
According to ESPN, Love told teammates after leaving a game against Oklahoma City in January that he had suffered another panic attack.
Love started seeing a therapist, something he said he still does a few times a month if he's in town. One of the main things he's come to realize, Love said, is it's OK to acknowledge your feelings and struggles and sometimes its important to be open about them.
"We are all walking around with experiences and struggles — all kinds of things — and we sometimes think we're the only ones going through them," wrote Love, who is currently sidelined with a broken left hand.
"The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with. So I'm not saying everyone should share all their deepest secrets — not everything should be public and it's every person's choice. But creating a better environment for talking about mental health … that's where we need to get to."
Cavaliers superstar LeBron James tweeted his support of his teammate later Tuesday morning.