Full Court Press: NBA Forces Every Franchise to Employ Psychologist, Behavioral Health Specialist for 2019-2020 Season

Demar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs on April 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.
Demar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs on April 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.
Photo: Matthew Stockman (Getty Images)

From Kevin Love to Metta World Peace, Dennis Rodman to DeMar DeRozen, players in the National Basketball Association—past and present—have publicly grappled with mental health issues.


And that makes perfect sense, as the men of the NBA assuredly are part of the nearly 44 million Americans who have confronted mental illness in any given year.

Last month, going with the sea change that has seen celebrities and athletes coming forward about everything from crippling anxiety to debilitating depression, the NBA announced formal requirements for each of its 30 teams, which include employing at least one licensed mental health professional full-time. Teams will also be required to bring in a licensed psychiatrist when necessary and institute a “written action plan” in case of a psychiatric emergency. They must also provide a plan to players on how they will maintain confidentiality for those who seek help, according to CNBC, which reports:

With the regular season opening on Oct. 22, the National Basketball Association adopted new rules last month and hosted a mandatory health and wellness meeting for team executives and mental health and wellness providers in Chicago last week, setting formal requirements for all 30 teams, according to Jamila Wideman, NBA vice president of player development.

“I think this meeting itself represents an opportunity for teams to share out and gradually build a collection of best practice so that the rising tide of this all shifts,” Wideman said of the Sept. 12 meeting. “What we’re seeing is teams willing to embrace, sort of holistically, the question of how do we do better, how do we do more for everyone?”

Ahead of the league, the NBA Players Association instituted its own mental health and wellness initiative in 2018, headed by psychologist William D. Parham.

According to Parham, players face a range of stressors, including playing the game itself; the intense travel schedule; celebrity; and money issues. There are also the inevitable demands from friends and family, and of course, being a 74 percent black league, the trauma they may have been exposed to in their lives before the NBA.


“What I really want the casual fan to see is that the phenomenal talent that they’re witnessing is exceptional on its own,” said Parham, according to CNBC, “and if they knew the backstory of some of these players—the actual story—what they think and are seeing as phenomenal talent will become exponentially more phenomenal if they really understand what that particular player is dealing with as a human being.”

“Seeing more conversations, hearing more conversations is a sign of success that we’re normalizing the issue,” said Wideman. “The more that quite frankly we think of it in the same ways that we already think about physical health when those conversations become more integrated I think that’ll be another sign of success.”


CNBC reports that in May, the NFL and its players’ union also established a mental health and wellness committee.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.



This is a positive move. All professional and college sports organizations should follow suit.