Royce, Risk, & the Rockets

Credit: USA Today

I, along with most of the NBA blogger community at-large, want Royce White to overcome his anxiety attacks to become an awesome-to-watch NBA player more than most other things out of this season. We want him to succeed, so we’ve convinced ourselves that his problems are more than worth the risk they present to his team. In doing so, many of us (I’m including myself because, well before the draft actually occurred, I was in this group) overlooked the issues that anxiety disorders present and how they would challenge Royce in his NBA career. “It’s just a fear of flying, he can get over that” we said. Some were so confident that he will overcome his problems that they would take him with a top 5 pick.

This week, with anxiety attacks preventing Royce from attending camp, we realized how rocky his transition will be, how the attacks just don’t go away. We learned from multiple suffers among us who can sympathize with Royce’s plight about the triggers of their anxiety and their ways to deal with attacks. But we don’t know how or if Royce can succeed in spite of his medical issues, because every person with an anxiety disorder handles it differently.

Unless they were completely incompetent (and they aren’t – as much as we like to make fun of them, on medical issues for players they just don’t mess up) NBA teams knew the uphill battle Royce White was facing. They knew this could happen. And they had to decide whether or not Royce White’s talent had as much worth as the issues and complications his unique condition presented. 15 teams (including Houston!) said no before Houston felt he was worth the risk to them.

Considering the recent events, I feel more strongly that I agreed with the 15 teams that skipped Royce over. By the time the draft came around, I learned more about Royce’s condition and knew that his anxiety problems were more than just a fear of flying. The risk-reward proposition largely depended on whether a team had the proper environment to accommodate him. Since anxiety issues could flare up for practically any situation, it would have to be a spot where the team need not rely on him.  I knew that I wanted the Sixers to stay as far away from him as possible because my city’s fair citizens, Philly media pressure, and the overbearing personality of our coach – combined with his flying problems – would create a toxic mix that could never work.

It seems that most teams used the same risk-reward thought process I did. When taking chances on players, teams measure the risk they face with every move, even if they don’t know they do it. They have doctors who know about these conditions, doctors who can alert teams of the challenges associated with anixety disorders. During the interview process, teams asked White what his triggers usually were. They covered their bases, and for many teams they simply could not take on the risk.

But the Rockets picked him and, for Royce, created about as good of a situation as he could find. While bus trips are a stretch, the Rockets are rebuilding – they will not depend on Royce White to succeed this year, even if he were in training camp from the get-go. They have a roster where his spot could be easily filled, since they signed over 9,000 power forwards. The Rockets aren’t in an intense media market like those on the East Coast. And fan expectations are low. Houston provides about as strong of a situation as you could find, given that his main anxiety-causing issue will be the issue he should encounter most. The Rockets coaches, medical staff, and front office can work with Royce through his problems without sabotaging the team’s efforts. They could accommodate his requests to travel by ground as much as possible, even with the impracticality of it, because it would prevent an anxiety attack. As such, the risk of his failure lowers, and the risk-reward proposition moved into Houston’s favor, at least according to them.


My working title for this article was “Why I’m Rooting for Royce White But Didn’t Want Him on my Team.” I changed it because, well, it’s actually inaccurate. I’d LOVE to have Royce White on my team. He’s a phenomenally easy player to root for. But it just would have been a colossal mistake for the Sixers (or most teams) to pick him up. And more importantly than that, he wouldn’t have succeeded. I am rooting for him to succeed and overcome it all. He may have long odds, but I’m happy to see he’s in a place where he and his team can find a way to make his career work in spite of his medical condition.


2 Responses to Royce, Risk, & the Rockets

  1. Pingback: The Royce White Saga Continues | Hoop City Blog

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