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Kelly Oubre, Jr. on depression, anxiety and his own battles with mental health

Kelly Oubre, Jr. on depression, anxiety and his own battles with mental health

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.

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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."

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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."

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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:

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Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

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Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

Voting has officially begun for the season-long NBA Community Assist Award, and Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal is a finalist. 

Chosen by fans and an NBA executive panel, the award honors a player’s strong commitment to positively impacting his community through sustained efforts over the course of the season.

In December, Beal visited Ron Brown College Preparatory High school in D.C. to give away two pairs of shoes to every member of the JV and varsity basketball teams.

It didn't stop there. Beal took his role as a mentor to the next level by checking in with the kids multiple times a month to make sure they are on the right track in both athletics and their academic studies.

Later on in February, Beal invited 10 students from RBHS on a private tour of the National African-American History and Culture Museum.

The seven-year NBA veteran also made a point to donate game tickets to community groups and toys to the Salvation Army during the holiday season. 

Here's some key information about the voting process: 

  1. Voting begins: Wednesday, April 24th at 12:01 p.m.
  2. Voting ends: Sunday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m.
  3. How does voting work? Through the above date range, every tweet posted using both of the hashtags #BradleyBeal and #NBACommunityAssist counts as one vote.
  4. Retweets of tweets using the above hashtags also count as one vote

This all comes following another All-Star season that saw the 25-year-old finish with career-highs in points (25.6), rebounds (5.0), and assists (5.5). He played in all 82 regular-season games. 

The winning player will receive $25,000 to their charity of choice, a donation from the NBA and Kaiser Permanente.

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The next Damian Lillard will be drafted this June, Ja Morant

The next Damian Lillard will be drafted this June, Ja Morant

On Tuesday night, Portland guard Damian Lillard broke #NBATwitter with his 37-foot, series-clinching buzzer-beater against Oklahoma City. 

It's not the first time we've seen him do that, but it's by far the biggest impact his play has had on the NBA world to this point.

Fair or not, Lillard's image has always been the overlooked underdog.  Even after being named All-NBA First Team last season, it's rare you hear his name mentioned among the NBA's most popular players. 

That attitude is what fuels the Portland Trail Blazers though. It's what the entire roster uses as motivation every game. It's a mindset every team in the NBA should be emulating too, and it starts with their star. 

If you're an organization in the middle of a rebuild, you should be looking no further than Ja Morant if you want this same organizational mindset going forward.

Ja Morant is the next Dame Lillard.

Ja Morant is going to be a star. 

The Wizards are one of those teams, and with the NBA Draft Lottery coming May 14, if the ping pong balls land in their favor, Morant needs to be their pick at No. 2 in the NBA Draft.

Don't worry about any other point guards on the roster and what that means. Don't pass on Morant.

Obviously, No. 1 would mean Zion Williamson, and anything past No. 2 means both are probably off the board, so we'll stick with that No. 2 pick in this case.

Both Lillard and Morant come from small schools in Weber State and Murray State, respectively. Both were under-recruited with Lillard being just a two-star and Morant not even being ranked by recruiting services ESPN, 247Sports, or Rivals.

Lillard was the better three-point shooter coming out of college, but Morant still has range, and can jump out of the gym.

Neither has a ton of size (Lillard 6-2, 185 lbs., and Morant 6-3, 175), but both aren't scared of the spotlight, and step on the court ready to eat the other team alive.

In a star-driven league based so much around player's brands and recognizability, there's something to be said for the guys that have the talent, but haven't been given the stage to show it yet. You get that combination of "chip on their shoulder" mentality with the star potential and work ethic biggy backing it. 

One of the best movie lines ever spoken was in Remember the Titans when Julius tells Gerry "attitude reflects leadership", and it's a mantra any successful team, business, volunteer group, club, or literally any collection of people should follow. 

If you want the right attitude in your locker room, you want leaders that can create it. 

Morant and Lillard share that same leadership, and the results are there to prove it. 

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