Former Iowa State standout and first-round draft pick Royce White had a promising career ahead of him before mental health problems ultimately forced him out of the league.
Selected by the Houston Rockets as the 16th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, White’s NBA career started with issues when he tried to make special accommodations to handle his general anxiety disorder; the six-foot-eight, 260-pound forward requested to travel by bus during certain extended road trips because airplane rides trigger his disorder.
As White explained to ESPN in 2012, he was willing to pay for the bus and assume all liability. He also addressed his demands — despite his mental issues — as requesting preferential treatment.
“I don’t really worry about that because the perception, I think, is just not valid, all around,” he said.
“If somebody has a broken leg, you give them crutches. And even though mental illness is different in the way it looks than a broken leg, it’s not really different in theory. Conceptually, it’s the same thing. And I don’t think getting a bus is actually any more convenient for me…. It’s actually more inconvenient for me to take a longer trip, but for me, specifically, it works well.”
White eventually agreed to terms on a deal but communication and understanding between both sides deteriorated.
White refused an assignment to the D-League in December 2012; two months later, White joined the D-League squad and made his professional debut; one month later, White said he would no longer play for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers due to doctor’s orders.
That was the beginning of the end as the Rockets traded White to the Philadelphia 76ers in the offseason. Despite a strong showing, White was waived before the regular season. Late in the 2013-14 season, White signed a pair of 10-day contracts with the Sacramento Kings, appearing in just three games before being waived.
White, now 25, plays for the London Lighting of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada). He has not suited up for an NBA team since a string of NBA Summer League appearances with the Los Angeles Clippers two years ago — and his recent comments to London Free Press prove that won’t change.
“F*k the NBA, f**k the money,” White said. “They want to go to perpetuate the idea that the [team] owners own the game and that money and profit are the pinnacle, or that position of power is the pinnacle.
“They [the NBA] should regret the route they took. Regret is deep and it doesn’t have to be acknowledged to have it. Even if David Stern [former NBA commissioner] won’t come out publicly and say we regret the route we took, you have to sleep with yourself at night. Everything isn’t about the front of the podium or the interview or draft night. You have to sleep with yourself.”
After publicly supporting White — whose well-known mental issues led many to believe he would fall out the first round — Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been critical of his former pick.
“I take some sort of pride in that you could argue that Royce White is the worst first-round pick ever,” Morey said in a Q&A discussion with Houston season ticket holders in 2014 (via ClutchFans.net).
White says he’s in a better place now and his Lightning teammates agree. However, White’s criticism of the NBA and its lack of understanding mental heath and pushing the initiative to help others is what bothers him the most.
“I was made to look weak, intentionally,” White said. “People resonate with vulnerability, but we still don’t exhibit great compassion for vulnerability.
“When people see other people be vulnerable, they are more likely to attack that person. That’s what bullying is.”
[Featured Image by Nick Laham/Getty Images]