Pelicans’ Jahlil Okafor credits his improved mental health, Cavs’ Kevin Love, for turning his career around
New Orleans Pelicans big man Jahlil Okafor wasn’t able to build the career that he wanted to after being selected as the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. In just his fifth year in the league, he’s already bounced off several teams. There was even a point when no one wanted to take him, and this caused him to be depressed.
What Okafor went through over the past five years wasn’t easy, but he kept working hard both on and off the court. Going through depression is tough for any person, and Jah was no exception. Despite the challenge, he never gave up, and with the help of his friends, family, and fellow NBA players, he slowly but surely recovered from his anxiety.
Last season, he was given another opportunity by the Pelicans, and he showed flashes of the great center people thought he could be. He was recently interviewed by GQ.com’s Alex Shultz about how he was able to deal with his mental health issues, and the 23-year-old gave credit to Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love.
“I feel at ease about it. I credit Kevin Love because he’s the first person that got me to realize, wow, I might be dealing with the same things. From then on, I did my own research to help myself, and it’s changed my life completely. I’m in a much better place.”
Love is an advocate for helping people with mental health issues. He wrote an extensive article about it on the Players’ Tribune. Several players have already sought his advice about this matter, including Okafor, who admitted that the veteran forward gave him a better perspective on how to deal with his depression.
One of the first things that Okafor had to do in order to overcome depression was to accept that he has it. From that point forward, things started to go his way.
“Last summer I did have issues that I needed to handle, and I’ve been able to open up to a therapist and realize that a lot of the things I’m dealing with, millions of other people are dealing with. Accepting that—talking to a professional, realizing what I was going through is normal…that helped tremendously. I still keep in contact with my therapist and know I can call them any time.”
Now that he’s back on track, Okafor can carve a better career path. He’s still young, which means it’s not too late for him to become a star in the NBA. But he’s taking things one step at a time.