Monday, October 8, 2012

Royce White's Career Shouldn't Be Grounded Because He Can't Fly

Royce White is holding himself out of Rockets training camp until the team agrees to let him take a bus to away games. (

Questions have surrounded Houston Rockets rookie Royce White since his final season at Iowa State a year ago.

"Can he compete in the NBA?" was never in doubt. White has the skills to play at an elite professional level. He's got the body and power of a forward, and the ball-handling skills and shooting ability of a guard. Yet he is currently holding himself out of Rockets training camp for an answer to a question bigger than talent.

His playing ability won't shatter his dreams, but something more powerful can. Something he can't control. White has an anxiety disorder that includes being terrified of flying. He has been open and honest about his illness, which he should be applauded for, but now is when we find out how crippling this illness will be to his career.

White won't report to camp until the team agrees to let him travel to some games by bus for away games that are a manageable driving distance away.

Reports say the two sides are not butting heads over the issue, but just working through the roadblocks. White said he does not blame the Rockets and Houston general manager Daryl Morey said the team is "committed to Royce's long-term success and we will continue to support him now and going forward."

Not everyone is so forgiving of the situation. Many say White should tough it out, man up, or insert whatever phrase you want to use to imply White needs to be stronger. But mental disorders are different than physical injuries in that not everyone has the misfortune of experiencing them, and others understand that.

If a player sprains an ankle, there are enough people who have gone through a similar injury - not to mention doctors to examine it - to be able to judge if he is too hurt to play. But mental illnesses vary from person to person, and if you are not someone who experiences it on a daily basis, it's impossible to understand how serious the illness is.

It is understandable why Houston did not immediately grant this request. Giving White a private bus would be asking more of the Rockets organization to make special accommodations for one player and would set a precedence for the future. What if the bus breaks down or White is not able to make it to the arena on time? Plus, he loses the ability to bond with his teammates by not being with them on the road. It would make for a strange working environment.

That is a risk. But so is missing out on a talented player that can be valuable to the team because Houston is not willing to find an alternative method of travel and White's anxiety disorder overcomes him.

It is disappointing to see players' careers jeopardized because they are irresponsible or make poor decisions. It is sad to see a player's career end due to physical injury and it would be horrible to see a physically healthy White have his career end because the NBA lifestyle is too demanding on his mental illness.

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