Washington Wizards small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. added his perspective to what other NBA players like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love have opened up about in recent days—talking about his mental health in an interview on NBC Sports’s “Wizards Tipoff” podcast (it starts around the 13:00 mark).
The 22-year-old Oubre, currently in his third NBA season, was uprooted from his childhood home of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina when he was nine years old, and he described in the interview how mindfulness and family helped him handle the anxiety and stress caused by the pressures of the NBA.
“I’m really good at keeping a poker face, because when I was growing up my dad always told me, ‘Don’t let anybody see you weak.’ Nobody sees that I’m weak, but deep down inside, I’m going through a lot. Hell is turning over,” Oubre said.
“Just being mindful is the only way I know how to get through any anxiety, any depression, anything like that.”
He also talked about how, as an athlete, the public perception of his incredible physical talents doesn’t always match what’s going on internally.
“I feel like people who are on the outside looking in don’t really understand, because they see us as superheroes, but we’re normal people,” he said. “We go through the issues that normal people go through times 10.”
Oubre also talked about his father, who he praised as a stabilizing, peaceful influence on his life. Kelly Oubre, Sr. appears to be closely involved in his son’s basketball career. From the NBC Sports article accompanying the podcast:
To remember where he came from, all Oubre has to do is look into the stands at Capital One Arena, just a dozen or so rows to the right of the Wizards’ locker room tunnel, where his father Kelly Oubre, Sr. sits for every game. Oubre, Sr. keeps a close eye and gives advice and discipline where needed.
Last spring, when Oubre, Jr. was suspended for Game 4 of the Wizards’ playoff series against the Boston Celtics, he stayed at home to watch the game with his father. Each time Oubre, Jr. celebrated big plays by his teammates, his father reminded him that he should be there and not at home on the couch watching on TV.
After a recent game where Oubre had a poor shooting night, his father pulled him aside near the locker room for a chat before Oubre had even changed out of his jersey.
“He’s a crutch that I use to stand on,” Oubre Jr. said. “When I play bad, I’m a little harder on myself than I should be, and he’s there to calm me down.”