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Jahlil Okafor ‘was in a dark place’ before addressing mental health issues, getting back in shape

Jahlil Okafor, Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans big man Jahlil Okafor says he was in a dark place before he addressed his mental health issues and got into shape. Okafor trained diligently in Miami over the summer to lose weight, and came into training camp with a noticeably toned physique.

In a wide-ranging interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Okafor opens up about his issues with depression and anxiety, and how Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love helped him identify his problems. Love wrote a powerful piece for The Players’ Tribune last season and Okafor says that opened his eyes.

“I didn’t know I was dealing with depression and anxiety myself,” Okafor told The Athletic. “When I was in Brooklyn after the Philly trade, I started to talk to somebody there. That was the first I heard about it. Then, during the season, I didn’t act on it.

“I was in a dark place, man. I didn’t act on what was told to me, and I ignored it and shut it down. A week before the season ended, I looked at myself in the mirror and knew I not only had to get my body right but my mind right. I went straight to Miami and changed my diet and worked out. But most importantly, I started talking to a therapist to help me get through the depression and anxiety that I was going through, and it’s something I’m still dealing with. But I’m coping with it a lot better, and I’m learning ways to continue to feel good.

“I thanked Kevin Love because when I was reading his piece, I realized that this is normal and some of the stuff he was talking about … damn, I deal with some of the same things. Kevin Love, we know how successful he’s been in the NBA, but to hear somebody of his stature come out and talk about this is super inspiring to me.”

Last season, Love and San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan opened up about their struggles with mental health and how more awareness needs to be brought to the subject. Love and DeRozan’s bravery in talking about their illness started a movement, as shortly after the two All-Stars spoke about their individual struggles, Washington Wizards swingman Kelly Oubre shared his own battles with mental health.

Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams also revealed how he had to overcome bouts of depression on his long and winding path to the NBA in his autobiography which was published this offseason. Okafor is the latest athlete to come out and state he deals with depression and anxiety, which is great because the stigma that comes with mental health is incoherent.

Jahlil Okafor signed a two-year deal with the Pelicans. However, just $50,000 of Okafor’s contract is guaranteed. Okafor’s deal has a partial guarantee in the first year and a team-option for year two.