Royce White – Mentally Ill? Narcissistic? Does Anyone Care?

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As a basketball junkie from the state of Minnesota, I’ve been well aware of Royce White’s existence since his freshman year at high school. While I never coached against him during his time at DeLaSalle, I got the same read from nearly everyone close to the situation that I talked to very early on. Diva athlete. Think’s he’s God’s gift. Rules don’t apply to him.

A few years later, he got kicked out of DeLaSalle and the following year he showed up at (surprise, surprise) Hopkins High School – the preeminent basketball powerhouse in the Twin Cities area for the past 10+ years. His play on the court was impressive, however, once again, you once again heard rumblings about everything else.

He showed up at the U of M. Had YouTube not existed, I would never have known he wore a Gophers jersey for Midnight Madness. We never did get to see him play in a game. He twice got in trouble with the law – once for stealing clothes and another time for being involved in the theft a laptop. He decided to “retire” from college basketball by posting a video on YouTube.

He later transferred to Iowa State where, after sitting out for a year, he had a really good year. While he was drafted in the middle of the first round by the Houston Rockets, much was made of his anxiety disorder and specifically his trouble flying. Since he was drafted, he hasn’t yet played in an NBA game. He’s claimed… well, a lot of things. Mainly, though, he’s claimed that the Rockets haven’t really supported his mental health. Nevermind the part where they essentially aren’t allowed to support his mental health in the way he wants to because of the collective bargaining agreement that was signed between the NBA and the NBA Players Association. I’ve made the argument before that instead of having such vitriol for the Rockets, Royce should’ve been upset at the agrees made by the players union that is supposed to represent him.

White has taken a hard line stance that he’s not doing anything until the situation gets resolved. He’s claimed (among other things) it isn’t just about him but rather raising awareness for everyone dealing with mental health issues. He’s been trying to drum up public awareness and support for those who have mental illness. I think any rational person could look at this argument as someone heroic. Except for the part where his behaviors have kind of alienated a lot of the people he could be getting into his camp as supporters. Put it this way – if I were trying to gain support for an issue that is somewhat unknown and/or controversial such as trying to convince people to be “Pro-Life,” I wouldn’t be attracting a lot of people to my “cause” if I decided to run around Main Street dragging a bloody Cabbage Patch doll with a sandwich sign saying “Baby Killers Will Burn In Hell” on my chest. If you are trying to gain support, remember tact and subtlety count. I don’t have a problem when Royce says he’s not sure if he can play because he’s got a lot of issues going on. I don’t really like it when he throws the Rockets under the bus, because, once again, I’m not 100% sure how they’ve wrong him so much. I get annoyed when he goes on Twitter, retweets negative criticism all the time with a simple response “#BeWell.” Part of me understands he’s trying to play it cool and not get sucked in, but just don’t say anything. Married fellas – try this once… when your wife gets upset at you and wants a response, just look at her, smile, and say “I love you honey.” When she doesn’t relent and wants a response from her, look at her again and say “I love you honey.” For the next week straight, just say nothing but “I love you honey” and see if she gets more upset or less upset at you as time goes on.

While the Twitter stuff is annoying, Royce White is far from the first blowhard who’s been annoying on Twitter. I have an enormous problem when he piggybacks onto the Newtown tragedy to promote his agenda. I don’t need to hear a 21-year old kid who makes millions upon millions of dollars to (not) play a children’s game compare himself to one of the horrific tragedies to happen in my lifetime. It just seems incredibly narcissistic and reeks of horrible timing.

I’m not in the camp that thinks there is nothing wrong with Royce. I’m also not in the camp that he should just “buck up” and deal with it. I think Royce see’s himself as way smarter than you-or-I. Because he’s a professional athlete who can put together a coherent sentence (no small feat after listening to some athletes being interviewed), he seemingly never gets called on it. This summer, when asked if he grew his beard because he liked James Harden, he responded he grew it to pay homage to John Lennon.

The second he said this (which I heard while I was running on my treadmill watching pre-draft combines) this summer, my BS detector went through the roof. It’s the same way my BS detector goes through the roof when someone says their favorite musician is Bon Iver or Radiohead. Sure, it’s quite possible that you really like Bon Iver or Radiohead. Or it’s also quite possible that you know that people will instantly think you are musically credible when you say you like Bon Iver or Radiohead.

What happens if you view Royce through the cynical eye that he’s a narcissistic who loves being in the spotlight (which, is the only reason you would “retire” from college basketball on YouTube, right?) If you wanted to come across as somewhat of a renaissance man, you would talk about your love for music. Upset that you aren’t getting playing time? Throw the Houston Rockets front office under the bus. If the Rockets were to cut him tomorrow, he still gets paid $3.36 million between this year and next should he never step on a basketball court.

What Royce decides to do is ultimately up to Royce. Should he determine he’s not that interested in playing basketball and he wants to just live off or squander his three-plus million dollars is up to him? By putting himself in position through his performance at Iowa State, he’s rightfully or wrongfully earned it. If he deems that his mentally health is more important than a career in the NBA, it’s entirely up to Royce. But whatever he chooses to do, I wish he display a little class. We’ve already got one NBA player – Kris Humprhies – that embarrasses an entire state every time he chooses to open his mouth. We don’t need another.