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ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan highlights mental health in the NBA

Marcus Morris and Paul Pierce shared their struggles with MacMullan for her five-part series.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Five Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan recently began a five-part series highlighting mental health throughout the NBA. With Kevin Love as the centerpiece to part one, MacMullan discussed how the Cleveland Cavaliers forward and DeMar DeRozan have helped to create an open forum for players and their struggles.

Before diving into the MacMullan’s conversations with Marcus Morris and Paul Pierce, I think it’s important to note how terrific the NBA has been in approaching this important topic. Many professional sports leagues do their best to keep these issues behind closed doors, which in turn causes players to remain silent. The NBA has been very open about the topic, allowing players to seek the help they need, speak out about their struggles, and spread awareness of mental health and the ample resources that are available. Props to the Adam Silver and the rest of the league.

For her initial segment, MacMullan spoke with former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce about his battle with depression. Pierce was stabbed multiple times on September 25, 2000, and said he “battled depression for a year,” following the traumatic event. “The only thing that saved me was basketball,” Pierce told MacMullan.

The Celtics legend said he was “nervous, jittery, and anxious”, to the point where his paranoia began to take over. “I don’t want to go anywhere. The police sat outside my house for months. I was a mess.” Pierce continuously struggled with crowds and had sporadic panic attacks.

“I should have opened up earlier than I did,” Pierce told MacMullan. “It was eating me alive. Once I finally started talking to a family member, it helped me.”

Pierce said that he regrets not opening up and getting help earlier, like the Celtics had suggested. Marcus Morris was someone who took Boston’s advice when he was traded in July of last summer, and he’s quickly become an advocate for seeking help.

“If you have depression, you should be trying to get rid of it instead of bottling it up and letting it weigh on you and weigh on you and weigh on you,” Morris told MacMullan.

Morris says that he and his brother Markieff have both struggled with mental health since their rough upbringing in North Philadelphia. The two forwards lived in a tiny basement in a neighborhood where crime was a part of everyday life. From paranoia once he left for the University of Kansas, to depression and anxiety, Morris discussed all of his struggles with MacMullan for part two of her series. The Celtics forward says that Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge are very open about “encouraging players to seek help with their mental health struggles.” The team introduced him to Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, which helped Morris find techniques to help him cope with his struggles.

Read MacMullan’s great pieces here and here.

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