Rockets’ Estranged Rookie Makes His Case In ‘Real Sports’ Interview

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If you’re afraid of flying, you don’t apply for a job in the cockpit for United or American Airlines. If you cannot descend a ladder in full three-alarm regalia with a properly weighted sandbag slung over your shoulder, firefighting shouldn’t be your bag. And if you accept employment at a Wall Street firm, you don’t stroll in on your first morning making demands about “green” investing and the dress code.

Well, you can try, I suppose. That’s what Royce White continues to do in the ill-advised stand he’s taking against the Houston Rockets, who suspended the rookie forward on Jan. 6 for refusing to report to their NBA Development League affiliate.

Two days later, White sat for an interview with HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” show that will air Tuesday. He explained to correspondent Bernard Goldberg why he wants the Rockets to hire a mental health professional who could, on an ongoing basis, assess his fitness to play through the anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders he suffers.

Asked what it would mean if, for instance, the doctor determined that White wasn’t mentally capable of playing in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on a given night, the 6-foot-8, 270-pound product of Iowa State said: “Then I can’t play against the Lakers.”

He continued:

“Just like if your doc … if your orthopedist says, ‘Royce’s left toe has a crack in it and he shouldn’t run or jump against the Lakers tonight,’ then I can’t run or jump against the Lakers tonight.”

White said the only difference between his disorder and an orthopedic injury is “you can’t see mine. There’s no swelling, so to speak. It’s not purple.”

Emotions over White’s difficult and delayed first season with the Rockets intensified when the player went public with demands that his contract be re-written to include binding medical protocols to treat his disorders like any physical condition. That would violate the NBA standard player’s contract.

In the HBO interview, White told Goldberg that not playing or practicing without the necessary precaution of a neutral physician’s input would be “risking my life.”

“What comes along with mental health that goes untreated? Alcohol abuse. Marijuana abuse. Suicidal behavior. Homicidal behavior. Those are things I’m not willing to risk to play basketball, to have money, to have fame.”

The Rockets declined to be interviewed for the 16-minute segment. White’s $3.3 million guaranteed rookie contract is dwindling while he’s suspended. Goldberg asks Royce in the piece to respond to a fan’s perspective of “Who do you think you are? … Who are you to tell a team what the rules are?”

That is the bottom line for many. Some see White as a pioneer for mental health assessments within pro sports. Others want him to shut up and play, or go find another job where he can be healthy and happy.

Remember, the NBA process of seeding new talent each spring – though it’s called a draft – doesn’t compel young players to participate. White is free to pursue any line of work that he chooses – his ability to stay employed hinges on satisfying his bosses.

And even in a culture where a school teacher can sue her district because she has a phobia of young children, some people don’t embrace the idea of a new hire dictating terms to the private workplace.

White tells Goldberg that the power of his argument shouldn’t be based on how many points or rebounds he already has accrued as a basketball player. “I’m a human being, that’s it,” he says.

And – to his credit, if he’s being honest – the Rockets’ estranged rookie says that that he is willing to forego his NBA career, if that’s the alternative.

“Yes,” White said, “but I’m not going to accept it without a fight.”

64 Comments

  1. Vin says:

    Can Rockets sue this guy for violating the contract he signed?

  2. Kenishi says:

    I suppose it’s not possible for the Rockets to take White on road trips the same way the A-Team took B.A. on their trips by plane? :)

  3. Anthony says:

    Wow he looks so different without the beard. still he should have went to the dleague

  4. wovesfiend says:

    bet you they wish they had picked tyler zeller right now though rofl

  5. jjjjjjjjjjjjjjj says:

    I suffer the exact same mental illness than Royce White. I can only say to the people that commented above are simply ignorant. They think that Anxiety Disorder, OCD are simply feeling a little nervous or sad. It is a very serious illness. Didn’t they Rockets know that Royce White suffer an Anxiety Disorder before they selected him in the Draft? He never hide his mental condition. People here are saying that he should hire his mental therapist. That is not the point. The point is that the same that the Rockets have many physical therapists, doctors, etc. I don’t think it is so hard for them to have a mental therapist. So he can help White to feel more relax and be able to play more. And if one day the Anxiety is very big, so then that day, he communicates to the coach that he can’t play that day. The same as if somebody has a physical condition, like a bad knee or back etc. Maybe he can play 6 or 7 games in a row and then one day he can’t play. Nobody here is talking for instance about Brandon Roy. He also say that he was totally recovered from his knee problems. Then Minnesota took the risk to give him a contract. How many games have Roy played? Nobody say anything bad about him. You know why? Because everybody seems to know physical injuries. However who of these people who made comments above have suffered a mental illnesss?

  6. Bob M says:

    He should hire his own “mental health professional.” I think he is has the talent to be an All Star, but I don’t think he is going to get much traction with “I don’t think I can play the Lakers tonight” angle. The thing that stuns me is that he was a model citizen at Iowa State. He said that basketball was his therapy and the thing that helped him most, but is spending a lot of time rationalizing why he won’t play basketball. C’mon Royce, pick up the ball and be a pioneer for overcoming and succeeding with anxiety instead of a cautionary tale for all other people with an anxiety disorder. The way the Rockets play would fit your style very well.

    • RJ says:

      yeah, imagine him grabbing boards and running coast to coast for jams or sweet on point dishes to a cutting Harden, Parsons, Lin, Morris, Patterson, Greg Smith to the rim. Drive and dish off a graceful, yet powerful move to Delfino behind the 3 point line. Or posting up and executing flashy give and go’s. Get him and Terrence Jones running with their regulars, and it becomes scary. and extremely nice to watch. After he got his footing, he’d probably make the game easier for a guy like Asik, too.

  7. Is Mental illness the same as a physical injury? says:

    If it is the rockets should cut him.

    He just talked himself out of an NBA contract.

  8. cpcheung says:

    White should have shown the wording of his contract, otherwise no one can make any comments.

  9. cpcheung says:

    It depends if White had fully disclosed his mental disability when he signed the contract with the Rockets. If he only disclosed half of the truth that his paranoid was airplane only and would not impact his game or make him disabled in performing his duty, Rockets should not be responsible or liable. However, if White has fully informed Rockets that his mental illness might prevent him from performing his duty, the Rockets should be liable.

    • RJ says:

      He had also said at one point before the season that flying a luxurious private flight with all of your teammates and team staff would be something he could handle a lot better. I guess he did either lie or overestimate himself on that.

  10. abdurrahmanx says:

    hi,

    Both parties are wrong. The Rockets didn’t do their homework on this guy, who probably is a nutcase. He wants his mental condition to be treated just like we would a player with a physical problem. The problem with that comparison is that the guy with the knee injury that has an INDEFINITE recovery period is not going to be drafted in the first place. So its the Rockets fault. The non Pc answer is they drafted a basket case. The PC answer is they drafted a guy with limitations that make him a poor NBA prospect, so they need to move on and kiss that signing bonus they paid out gud bie!

  11. Truth in IA says:

    I don’t get it, He played for ISU just fine…. For free. Why can’t he do it for a big contract. I don’t think ISU had a mental doctor for him.. This not playing if a DR says because of anxiety sounds pretty off base to me. I hope he comes around because he is a fun player to watch.

  12. Gian Carlo says:

    Oh man, you’re in the right time seeking for further attention to your team,with the dilemma of skidding its last seven games, adding insult to injury.
    Your team won’t welcome this situation,Rockets is sliding down the top 8 on the west, what you can do is work it out with your team,both indefferences, and help your team get out on the hole.
    At the end of the day its just business,settle ammicably both parties. Everybody happy.
    Go Rockets.

  13. Laith says:

    “Well then I am just not available to play the Lakers…” yea that’s gonna go over well with the front office…… What an immature boso! World peace is actually crazy and he manages just fine in the nba.

  14. Rdn says:

    I also have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. When I have an attack, I can’t breathe and all I can do to not imagine myself, say, driving off a cliff repeatedly, is to curse loudly or sing loudly. If that situation lasts for awhile, it drains pretty much everything out of me. Afterward, I can’t even imagine trying to play a physical/skill sport, nerves are shot. When you have to sit through 2-4 hours of that, I can’t imagine someone being able to play at a level worth watching. You don’t want that on the court, just like you don’t want a guy who was puking before the game or has a sprained ankle playing. But I still can function quite well in society and make a better living than a lot of you. In Royce’s case, he might have to miss 10-15% of the games in an NBA season if he can’t take a bus or train and get there in time. You carry more than 5 players on a roster for a reason, though, and most players in the NBA don’t play in every game. So it’s not unreasonable at all.

    • Hm says:

      Somebody who understands! No way! You’d think only a bunch of losers, whose most serious illness is the occasional cold, could comment here.

  15. Greg says:

    The letter from the Houston Rockets states that they asked him if flying was going to be a problem and he said NO! He later apologized for lying to them! So this is not on the Rockets! This Guy just flatout lied to them.

  16. Pokie says:

    If I was running a team and you told me I could have a player of Royce White’s ability as my 12th man for 41 home games I would do a little dance.

  17. Kamil says:

    What about all the normal people who wake up everyday and have tons of responsibilites and even if they are not 100%, they must go to work and take care of their responsibilities.

    All Royce White is a bum who could play some ball, made the college team, got lucky and got drafted and now thinks he can quit because he thinks he deserves his 3 million dollars. Maybe he even thinks they will pay him just to be a distraction to the team and organization.

    Give Royce White a shovel and a construction helmet. After a week of work, he will forget he ever had an “anxiety” disorder.

  18. krespino says:

    The questions on the Rockets side are also plenty. How did the Rockets sign with this guy?
    Didn’t anybody from the Rockets talk with him before signing the contract, did they not ask the right questions, about his mental health, did they not investigate about his mental health, didn’t anybody ever think of reminding him that playing in the NBA will require flying on planes…
    Unbeliably stupid story, on behalf of the Rockets too.
    They guaranteed millions of dollars to a player that will not play but give them big nuisance. Good front office job.

  19. KevinGarnettOverratedVotedfor AllStarevenCelticsisLastSeed says:

    yeah..cry baby like kevin garnett..overated all star starter..

  20. Shawn says:

    Well, to all the people who don’t know why White entered the NBA with knowing his mental disorder, just think if somebody offers a 3.3 million contract and told you that you don’t have to work. That’s what this drama is. White is just a crook. Who knows if he’s really got mental illness. I don’t believe him.

    • Hm says:

      Seriously? He’s been playing in college with the same problems and couldn’t go to Kentucky because of them. Need I remind you that college players aren’t being paid millions?

  21. obed says:

    He is just a cry baby mental illnest is serious in some cases but in the end everything is mental you can overcome it with will of mind hes a grown man act like one he knew what he was getting into and really if he wanted to play he would accept the d-leguea he still dosent know the talent and luck he has and the oportunity that many dream and would kill for just that chance just a waste of talent on a man that acts like he deserves everthing cause of a “ilnes”

  22. Trevor says:

    What were people going to expect out of this anxiety disorder? The whole process at Iowa State was that he would take a bus to every away game. Did they expect the d-league to give him a bus because he is just getting into more trouble. This player has a lot of talent- NBA talent- and he will need some extra eyes on him if the Rockets wanted to add this kind of talent to their club.

  23. High School Coach says:

    Royce White is a huge cry baby in my opinion. The Rockets have tried to help this fool and he has ridiculous demands. For example when we were at the beginning of the season and he told management that his anxiety would subside if he got playing time; especially if he was a starter. He should have never entered the draft.

  24. Going 4 da gold says:

    Y do people read this . He is a loser. And so r the rockets with or without

  25. Going 4 da gold says:

    Y do people read this . He is a loser. And so r the rockets with or without him

  26. Ray says:

    Flying across the country is something that’s given as an NBA player. Only busing to a small portion of games in a year is extremely unpractical.

    If you’re too scared to fly in a plane, you shouldn’t of even entered the draft. Royce bit off more than he could chew and now he’s just making a fool of himself while single handedly setting back people with mental health issues.

    • RJ says:

      I don’t understand. You people all think the Rockets didn’t know anything about him before drafting him? They did, and they drafted him. Now they have to work with him.

  27. houstonrocketsfan says:

    Enough with this thing.

  28. Jacques Durceille says:

    He knew what joining the nba would entail. How did he think he was going to get from houston to boston? houston to new york? a week long roadtrip on a bus playing cards and drinking whiskey? lol. If your scared of heights don’t apply to be a construction worker, if you are scare of water don’t become a lifeguard, if you are scared of planes, don’t apply for a job that entails being in an airplane at least 3 times a week.

    Sure he is a pioneer, but he is offbase. He willingly took a job he knew he could not do and is now hurting an organization. Why do it at all if you know what the demands are? He is doing a good thing for the wrong reason. Fighting for mental health is the right thing to do, but he was not placed in an unfair position, he sought this out by himself, he entered the draft and now he is double backing.

    I say cut him, but at least the league can now start creating programs for those with mental health issues like delonte west.

    But send this kid out of the league, this side show is bothersome.

  29. amitpal says:

    Ok I’m really getting mad at the rockets right now. Why dont u just release this guy and get it over with. The rockets r messing up there reputation. If the kid says I’m willing to come out of my contract then rip the contract and get it over with. The dude is just one more headache.

  30. NJ Nets says:

    You signed a $3.3 million contract… hire your own mental health professional if they won’t hire one for you. Heck, hire 10 of them. If it works out, then maybe they’ll start covering it for you in the future.

    • RJ says:

      He did. They wanted to use one they had selected. He wanted one they could mutually agree on that had his best interests in mind.

  31. delores williams says:

    First of all, the rockets were aware of his condition prior to selecting him and providing him with a contract. I don’t know the extent of his illness, however, that is the resposibility of management to know these things.

  32. TV63 says:

    When people find out to what extreme lenghts the Rockets went to accomodate him; they’ll see the opportunist he is. There are many people out there with mental disorders and they would never take it to this extreme as he has. He’s unreasonable and just wants a paycheck without working. He refuse to even meet them half way on any of the thing they have done.

    • RJ says:

      What lengths are those? Did they meet him halfway on using his doctors or anything? Please, share what you know.

  33. Not says:

    Before you were given a contract and being drafted by the rockets you already knew what will happen if you jojn the nba, flying from one place to another is already a given rule when playing in nba, so stop whining and just quit basketball already.

  34. J.Soh says:

    Get your head out of your butt and start working for the future. Nobody is going hand you stuff if you dont show up, nor work for it, nor willing to cooperate and keep complaining. The only thing is going to open if this keeps up is the door.

  35. uoykcuf says:

    I feel for this young man for what he’s going through BUT he needs to stop talking. I think when you entered the draft means you are eligible to play. No excuse, there’s people in the same situation as you and they don’t need all the pamper and attention. IMO People with REAL sickness mentally or physically never wants to be treated differently. I applaud they way you fight for the rights for mental illness BUT It`ll be a shame if this is just a way to get laid off after getting the paycheck.

  36. AltH85 says:

    Really!?! Man just go and give the spot to somebody that is willing to do what he has signed for.
    The NBA needs no contract terms that include a mental trainer. The NBA needs players who know what they are there for. Doesnt he see, that no one in the NBA cares about him nontheless hes tryig to be a martyr.

  37. Crazygirl992 says:

    why didn’t he just hire his own doctors from the begining, I mean he is making millions now, :\ he could’ve hired his own doctors and asked the rockets to take in consideration what they decided when these issues arrised, ofc that too could be abused, but it’d made much more sense, and I’m sure the rockets could work with that as they did seem like they wanted to work, I think both sides are at fault to an extent, but seriously why didn’t White do something proactive like hireing his own doctors, and asking the team to work with them when the situations arose, ugh idk :\…. he could prob still reset, if he was willing to compromise, I don’t know much about his problems but I know people who suffer from paranoia, once they start expanding their horizon, and learning that its safe they can overcome, yes its a struggle, and its hard at first but they make it because they fight, and I’m sure if the right person met White and had a talk with him in a way it’d reach him he could too, I just really hope he’s not just being an attention hound, because that would just be bad :\

    • slider821 says:

      White has his own doctors and the rockets org is fine with that. They are not OK with the clause he wants in his contract, that HIS docs have final say over any decision the rockets make. If his doctors say practice is harmful to his mental health and him not getting any playing minutes is also harmful, if the clause were accepted, Rockets would be required to play a guy who they also cannot force to practice.

  38. txema says:

    So the kid wants to fight. Then fight the good fight, for God’s shake, don’t go bite the hand that feeds you.I understand is not easy, but maybe you lost focus, maybe the enemy is not your employer, maybe the enemy lies within you.

    • RJ says:

      Yeah, maybe part it is that he needs kind of re-focus, and that will perhaps lead to something productive happening.

  39. akthakilla says:

    this dude was such a waste for us. only in for media attention. couldve made millions.

  40. angie says:

    What does he want??? I still don’t know.

  41. ShawnKemp says:

    Next thing you know, you’ll have players sitting out games because they ‘feel too sad’ to play.

    • Hm says:

      That’s absolutely not what this is about, but I’m sure you knew that.

      • slider821 says:

        hm, not necessarily. If HIS doctors say he’s ‘too sad’ to practice, the rockets org wouldn’t be able to make him practice. Doesn’t sound fair to the players putting in work, right? That’s the clause he wants in his contract.

  42. B-B-Fan says:

    I’d like to know what made him think he could pursue a career in the NBA with his disabilities in the first place given that he knew what was involved with an NBA career.

    • slider821 says:

      Well, given that he was perfectly able to fly to Hawaii with OSU to play in tournaments and flights to the Bahamas for vacation, he appeared he could do what’s necessary to play pre-draft. He got drafted and now’s he’s trying to milk it for all it’s worth.

      I wouldn’t be suprised if he fails at swindling the Rockets org, gets cut this year and has a miraculous ‘breakthrough’ with his mental issues next year, suddently able to fly, compete, practice and most importantly, GET PAID!!! That’s what it’s all about. If it wasn’t all about the money, he’d be practicing, working hard, playing home games, not doing HBO interviews and making twitter accusations.

      He says it’s not about the money but if it really was about the game for him, he’d be putting in the work like everyone else in the NBA.

  43. eee says:

    please stop writing about this if he cant play basketball due to his illness he just needs to accept it and move on