The Chicago Bulls signed (and traded for) DeMar DeRozan in part to help rebuild their culture. An organization that was still clinging to the glory days of years past needed a real direction and DeRozan had been a part of such an undertaking in Toronto with the Raptors.
But even they couldn’t have imagined that DeRozan’s impact could reach the league-wide level, especially when you consider this time it is off the court.
DeRozan is notorious for his challenging offseason regimen including training with top stars.
But he has also been an advocate for mental health which has come into the spotlight in the sports world and the world at large in recent years. DeRozan, who has been outspoken about his struggles, could be a major factor in the NBA adopting some significant new legislation in the next collective bargaining agreement.
DeRozan a Mental Health Advocate
“In what would be an unprecedented and progressive change for American pro sports,” writes Shams Charania for The Athletic, “the NBA and NBPA are discussing measures to allow players to cite mental health issues as an ailment similar to physical injury, per sources with knowledge of the talks. Similar to when players treat external injuries, this new addition would give players the ability to treat their mental health concerns with the same gravity, allowing for things such as the seeking of second opinions and psychiatrist visits”
Charania cites DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love’s openness with their battles as being part of the impetus for the potential change.
He also cites Ben Simmons who missed all of last season in part due to his issues.
This is no new endeavor for DeRozan. He has opened up on his struggles with anxiety and depression multiple times including back in February of 2018 while he was still a member of the Raptors.
“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day,” DeRozan told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “We all got feelings…all of that. Sometimes…it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”
While DeRozan is not the first to divulge that athletes struggle with mental health, Michael Lee wrote how he inspired the NBPA to take mental health more seriously in a piece for the Washington Post.
“The NBPA began its mental health and wellness program a few months after DeRozan created a lane for dialogue about how no amount of money or success can shield athletes from the realities of life.”
DeRozan’s Basketball Mindset
DeRozan’s battles with mental health often left him feeling “isolated”. But he has channeled his energy on the court into something else often going against players such as Jayson Tatum and Raptors guard Fred VanVleet.
When teammate Patrick Williams flew out to Los Angeles for a “summer from hell” with the five-time All-Star, he marveled at the different ways DeRozan found to motivate himself.
“It’s a lot of body weight,” Williams said of the 5 a.m. workouts. “It’s a lot of movements that challenge your core. It’s really mental. Everything he does is mental. Even if it’s a lift, if it’s a on-court workout…anything he does is mental. He likes to play mind games. He likes to challenge himself mentally, as I see.”
DeRozan credits the late great Kobe Bryant for his approach.
At the rate he is going, DeRozan is carving out quite the path of his own when it comes to leaving a lasting impact on the game.