Rockets guard Kevin Porter opens up about mental health struggles
Kevin Porter. Photo by David J. Phillip/AP.

Rockets second-year guard Kevin Porter, Jr., perhaps unintentionally, entered into the all-important conversation about athletes and mental health when he met with local media recently.

Porter, who was traded from Cleveland to Houston last January, simply mentioned that joining the Rockets saved his life. Here he found what he describes as fresh air.

“I needed a new scenery from where I was at and they picked me up when I was down,” Porter said.

The budding young star admits that at times it’s been a struggle finding that good place between playing the sport he loves and dealing with troubling thoughts and feelings. Porter isn’t the first athlete to come out and deal with mental health publicly.

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love was one of the biggest names to come out a couple of years ago about his struggles with mental health and then tennis star Naomi Osaka opened up about her struggles, along with former NFL receiver Brandon Marshall, gymnast Simone Biles and women’s basketball player DiDi Richards – both Houstonians. The list goes on.

What was once a taboo conversation to have, has become much more acceptable and respected. Porter openly talked about his struggles and his triggers.

The former first-round pick of the Cavaliers, says being in Cleveland, especially during the winter months, were a struggle for him. But in Houston, he has found more conducive weather, not to mention a support structure that includes long-time NBA coach John Lucas and a head coach in Stephen Silas, whose specialty is connecting with his players not just in basketball but in life.

“Just to balance everything out and not be over eager when it’s game time because that’s when it’s at it’s worst, when I’m thinking about the game every day, all night, can’t sleep because I’m waiting to play, too anxious. And that’s when I’m at my worse,” Porter said.  “I try to balance it … conversations like that is what helps me. He is here 24/7, so I know I have him one call away.”

As he did with several of his players this offseason, Silas made a point of connecting with Porter this offseason and just spent time with the third-year pro, talking more about life than X’s and O’s.

“It’s very organic,” Silas said. “It’s spending time on the floor, and with him or any other player as they are walking off the floor, having conversations, connecting off the floor, whether it’s dinner, come to the office and let’s hang out for a few hours or minutes. This summer, he was around a lot. We spent a lot of time together.”

Porter said as a kid growing up in Seattle, basketball was the escape that helped him deal with life in an imperfect world.

“I would say my upbringing is different. So, basketball is kind of an escape,” said Porter. “When I was in Cleveland I couldn’t really use it as an escape because that was kind of my most depression. Coming here was like a 180 for me. So basketball, I can enjoy it again. I can enjoy the weather out here because it’s not as cold. And you just feel the different energy being in Houston and being a part of this family.

“That being said, I couldn’t grow without this move.”