Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s life has been defined by overcoming profound obstacles to do amazing things. At just nine years old while growing up in New Orleans, LA his family was uprooted due to Hurricane Katrina. The historic natural disaster produced dramatic changes in his life from where he lived - they moved to Houston, TX - to the very structure of his family.
Through it all, Oubre developed into one of the top basketball recruits in the country, a hyped freshman at the University of Kansas and then a first round pick for the Washington Wizards.
As Oubre's basketball career has steadily trended upward, the acclaim has followed. He has money, fame and by all accounts a bright future. But underneath it all are demons he battles periodically.
NBA stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love recently shared their struggles with depression and anxiety. Oubre has his own story of mental health to tell.
The Washington Wizards forward pulled the curtain back in an interview on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, describing issues he has dealt with that even those who are around him daily may not be aware of.
Oubre has a lot on his mind. At just 22 years old, he is a rotation piece on one of the best teams in basketball and his role is expanding. With that comes increased responsibilities and accountability for mistakes.
All while growing into himself as a man and a person, he is trying his best to succeed in a lucrative, high-pressure industry while millions are watching. It's not easy.
"A lot of people are coming out with things about mental health. I feel as if, yeah man I've suffered through a lot of things in my life. I've been through a lot of things," he said.
"I can definitely relate to it all... I'm really good at keeping a poker face because when I was growing up my dad always told me 'don't let anybody see you weak.' Nobody sees that I'm weak, but deep down inside I am going through a lot. Hell is turning over."
DeRozan and Love telling their stories has made Oubre think more about his own. DeRozan spoke of his battles with depression in an interview last month with the Toronto Star and Love followed up with his own story of anxiety and panic attacks in the Players' Tribune.
Oubre says both of their accounts hit close to home.
"That s--- is serious," he said. "I just go into a quiet place and breathe, man. Just being mindful is the only way I know how to get through any anxiety, any depression or anything like that."
Oubre says his issues are partly rooted in his quest to be great. He sets high expectations for himself and has difficulties dealing with falling short.
He is a young player prone to mental mistakes due to inexperience and admits he's harder on himself than he should be. The internal struggle "can get overwhelming," he says.
Oubre thinks there are many out there who don't see the true grind of professional sports and what athletes are actually up against, both physical and mental. Through social media and from the stands, Oubre hears things from fans all the time that suggest many miss what is really going on.
Everyday problems are compounded when put under the microscope of bright stadium lights and the relentless news cycle.
"We're normal human beings. We face a lot more adversity, a lot more problems... It's a little bit more amped up, we just can't show it," he said. "I feel like people who are on the outside looking in don't really understand because they see us as superheroes, but we're normal people, man. We go through the issues that normal people go through times 10."
Things are changing quickly in Oubre's life. He is three years into his NBA career and one year away from the end of his rookie contract with the Wizards. Two summers from now, he could make enough money to set his family up for generations.
To remember where he came from, all Oubre has to do is look into the stands at Capital One Arena, just a dozen or so rows to the right of the Wizards' locker room tunnel, where his father Kelly Oubre, Sr. sits for every game. Oubre, Sr. keeps a close eye and gives advice and discipline where needed.
Last spring, when Oubre, Jr. was suspended for Game 4 of the Wizards' playoff series against the Boston Celtics, he stayed at home to watch the game with his father. Each time Oubre, Jr. celebrated big plays by his teammates, his father reminded him that he should be there and not at home on the couch watching on TV.
After a recent game where Oubre had a poor shooting night, his father pulled him aside near the locker room for a chat before Oubre had even changed out of his jersey.
Oubre, Sr. helped his son get through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and he continues to be a guiding light in his life.
"It's just that peace of mind, that mental stability he gives me just by seeing him. He doesn't even have to say anything. I just see him," Oubre, Jr. said. "I feel like we've been through it all. This little piece of adversity, it's not going to hurt me. I will be able to get through it. He's definitely like a crutch that I use to stand on in this life, man."
"Mental health is definitely something that he always preaches. He worries about me keeping my head. Obviously, you know, I'm crazy as hell. I just love him because he's there and he wants to see me be great."
You can hear the full interview with Kelly Oubre, Jr. on our Wizards Tipoff podcast right here: