Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has been an NBA All-Star five times, but his most recent selection to the coveted roster came during what he calls the worst year of his life.
This past winter, Love was struggling. A fractured hand kept him off the court for several weeks as questions abounded regarding his trustworthiness as a teammate and ability to play in the league. He shut out the media and shared very little about himself outside the game of basketball. He hated going out in public.
Despite his injury preventing him from playing, Love still made the trek to Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend festivities in mid-February -- and that's when he heard the news of the deadliest high school shooting in United States history.
On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz, then 19, opened fire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 students and staff members. Two days later, All-Star Weekend began.
"I'm getting put into my clothes for the event that day and Parkland, Florida, was on the TV," he told AOL.com. "I'm like, 'Wow, what is that kid going through?'"
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The Parkland shooting and the All-Star Game occurred mere months after Love had suffered a severe and very public health scare. Love removed himself from the Cavaliers' home game against the Atlanta Hawks on November 5, 2017, after experiencing shortness of breath, dry mouth and a racing heartbeat.
"It was like my body was trying to say to me, 'You’re about to die,'" he later explained.
After undergoing multiple tests at the Cleveland Clinic, Love was told he had experienced a panic attack. Fast-forward to February and Love was still hiding the diagnosis from the masses while rumors continued to swirl about what had happened.
It wasn't until the tragedy in Parkland that Love started to think about sharing his story.
See Love through his career:
"It's very scary, seeing the mass shootings," he said. "Just last week, again and again. There's so much sh-- happening and so much unrest."
Several concerns about the Parkland shooter's mental health, including incidents of self-harm and issues with anger, were made public after the massacre.
"I don't think it's outlandish to say that had [Cruz] had help and coping mechanisms early on and better people to go to, maybe that's preventable," Love said. "Maybe not in all cases, because some people just like to watch the world burn, but I think it's not outlandish to say that kid could've been helped."
In March, shortly after fellow NBA player DeMar DeRozan revealed his battle with depression, Love penned an essay for The Players' Tribune that dove into his own mental health struggles. He expanded on several topics he had mentioned to ESPN's Jackie MacMullan during All-Star Weekend, including that he had been speaking to a therapist for several months.
Since then, Love has become an outspoken advocate for mental wellness. In October, he launched the Kevin Love Fund in order to help people improve their mental, emotional and physical health. Love has also partnered with Schick Hydro to produce a webisode series called Locker Room Talk, part of Schick Hydro's Man I Am campaign, where he discusses mental health and positive masculinity with other athletes.
"It's American sports, but it's also the social climate that we're in," Love said of the need to discuss mental health issues. "The NBA is at the forefront of that."