Kevin Love opens up about the days following his 2017 panic attack

It was apparent from the beginning that Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love was something special on the court -- but now, his work off the court is garnering just as much attention. 

The former UCLA Bruin has racked up numerous accolades over a decade in the NBA, including five All-Star selections and a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016. Still only 30 years old, Love has accomplished feats most people can only dream about. 

Many NBA players relish the fame that accompanies such a decorated career in professional sports -- but Kevin Love wasn't always comfortable in the spotlight.

"People look at you like you're a star or a celebrity or larger than life, but I always just wanted to be a guy," he told AOL.com. "I didn't like to go out in public because in some way, I felt like I was under a microscope or doing something wrong."

SEE ALSO: Serena Williams calls outburst at US Open a 'trigger moment'

That social anxiety turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. On November 5, 2017, Love was thrust into the national spotlight after abruptly leaving a game against the Atlanta Hawks in the third quarter. Initial reports began to circulate about the "unspecified illness" that briefly landed him in a Cleveland hospital. It wasn't until four months later that Love revealed the true reason behind his mysterious exit -- a panic attack. 

"It was like my body was trying to say to me, 'You’re about to die,'" he explained in an essay for The Players' Tribune in March. "I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe."

Unfortunately, that initial diagnosis may have created more questions than it did answers. 

"There was the constant worry of who's gonna know, who's gonna find out," he said of the days following his panic attack. "There was speculating from the outside, but also inside [the team], them not understanding."

See photos from Love's NBA career: 

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Kevin Love through his career
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Kevin Love through his career
ARCHIVO - En esta foto del 19 de octubre del 2018, el alero de los Cavaliers de Cleveland Kevin Love hace un tiro libre en un partido de la NBA contra los Timberwolves de Minnesota. (AP Foto/Jim Mone)
UCLA's Kevin Love (C) eyes a rebound with Washington State's Daven Harmeling (L) and Kyle Weaver during their NCAA basketball game in Los Angeles January 12, 2008. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
UCLA's Kevin Love laughs during a timeout in the first half of their NCAA baskeball game against USC at the PAC-10 tournament in Los Angeles March 14, 2008. Love was the high scorer for the game with 19 points as UCLA won the game 57-54 to advance to the final on Saturday. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello (UNITED STATES)
UCLA Bruins' Kevin Love celebrates their win over Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at the end of their NCAA men's West Regional basketball game in Phoenix, Arizona, March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
UCLA center Lorenzo Mata-Real (14) holds up the West Regional trophy as he celebrates with teammates James Keefe (L), Kevin Love (4th R) and head coach Ben Howland (R) after defeating Xavier Musketeers in their NCAA men's West Regional basketball game in Phoenix, March 29, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Scuteri (UNITED STATES)
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love smiles during a timeout in the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in the Target Center in Minneapolis January 29, 2011. Love scored 21 points, and the Timberwolves won over the Raptors. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
NBA basketball player Kevin Love, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, arrives at the 2011 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, California, July 13, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ENTERTAINMENT BASKETBALL)
Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves competes in the three-point contest during the NBA All-Star weekend in Orlando, Florida, February 25, 2012. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
NBA player Kevin Love accepts his award during the 27th Anniversary Sports Spectacular benefiting Cedars-Sinai Medical Genetics Institute at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, California May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Bret Hartman (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SPORT BASKETBALL)
Deron Williams (L) and Kevin Love (R) both of the U.S. joke around with teammate Anthony Davis (C) during the men's preliminary round Group A basketball match against Nigeria at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 2, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar (BRITAIN - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT BASKETBALL)
Nov 16, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) smiles and congratulates Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Kevin Martin (23) after making a three point shot in the second half against the Boston Celtics at Target Center. The TImberwolves won 106-88. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) is guarded by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 2, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (12) defends Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) injures his shoulder during the first half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics. at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 2, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) juggles a loose ball during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Cavaliers won 107-100. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 23, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) and forward LeBron James (23) react in the third quarter against the Orlando Magic at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
March 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots a basket against Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) passes the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) during the first quarter in game two of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) enters the arena before game five of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
June 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and forward Kevin Love (0) celebrate the 93-89 and series victory against the Golden State Warriors following game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Basketball NBA) *** Local Caption *** 2016-06-20T032523Z_2053546459_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_NBA-FINALS-CLEVELAND-CAVALIERS-AT-GOLDEN-STATE-WARRIORS.JPG
Nov 25, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 128-90. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and forward Kevin Love (0) celebrate during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics in game three of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) poses for a portrait during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 08: Kevin Love #0, LeBron James #23 and Jeff Green #32 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 8, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 27: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on December 27, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 28: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against the Detroit Pistons on January 28, 2018 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: LeBron James #23 and Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers react on the bench in the second half against the Boston Celtics during Game Two of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 06: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors attempts a jumper over Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half during Game Three of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 19: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 19, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Timberwolves defeated the Cavaliers 131-123. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) poses for a portrait during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Independence, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
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Things hadn't gotten any better for Love by the All-Star Game in February. Rumors continued to swirl about his health, his locker room presence, his ability to even play in the league and whether or not his mental health issues were actually real. It was then that Love decided he needed to share his story. 

"For 29 years of my life, I very seldom shared anything," he said. "Even to the media ... I'd be completely shut off. I couldn't share anything about my personal life. Now, I feel fully liberated and empathetic and passionate. I feel more evolved."

Love has now fully embraced his role as an ambassador for mental health, partnering with Schick Hydro to produce a webisode series called Locker Room Talk as part of Schick Hydro's Man I Am campaign, which focuses on promoting positive and healthy masculinity. Several other athletes, including decorated Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, have joined Love to discuss their own experiences with mental illness. 

Watch Love's interview with Michael Phelps: 

Around the same time Love revealed his battle with anxiety and depression, DeMar DeRozan, formerly of the Toronto Raptors and now with the San Antonio Spurs, opened up about his own struggles.

Since then, a range of athletes have spoken out about their struggles, from Phelps, to NBA legend Paul Pierce, and even Channing Frye, a current teammate and good friend of Love who battled a deep depression after losing both of his parents in the span of one month.

Watch Love's interview with Channing Frye: 

Love said he was shocked by just how many players around the league approached him about their struggles. 

"I'm obviously a vault," he said. "They've felt comfortable coming up to me and saying, 'Man, not only thank you, but this is what I'm dealing with. What have you done? Where can I go?'"

In October, Love launched the Kevin Love Fund in order to help people improve their mental, emotional and physical health. Right now, fans who donate to the Kevin Love Fund and the Movember Foundation are entered to win a meet and greet with Love prior to a game in Cleveland in January.

According to the Movember Foundation, 75% of suicides in the United States are committed by men -- and globally, one man dies by suicide every minute. 

See more from Locker Room Talk: 

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Kevin Love hosts Locker Room Talk
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Kevin Love hosts Locker Room Talk
Kevin Love talks to decorated Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps on Locker Room Talk.
Kevin Love speaks with NBA legend Paul Pierce on Locker Room Talk.
Kevin Love chats with his teammate and good friend Channing Frye on Locker Room Talk.
Kevin Love hosts Locker Room Talk as part of the Man I Am campaign from Schick Hydro.
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Love says he feels "empowered" by his newfound openness and is now able to live his life with more control over his anxiety, fresh off the heels of what he calls the worst year of his life.

"When you have anxiety or depression like I've experienced or other people have experienced, getting to the next day can sometimes be a big win," Love said. "There's still much work to do, and I don't understand that much, but enough to realize that I'm not alone and that I can get through this." 

Watch Love's interview with Paul Pierce: 

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