Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love earned the award for his openness and advocacy around mental health, saying, "I accept this award as both an honor and a challenge"

By Jason Duaine Hahn
June 21, 2020 11:02 PM
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Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love has been one of the most vocal advocates for mental health in the NBA, and he was recognized for his efforts at the 2020 ESPY Awards on Sunday.

Love, 31, was presented with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPYs for his work to destigmatize mental health issues, according to ESPN.

Introducing a video about Love during the remote ceremony, Matthew McConaughey said the athlete earned the award for "his guidance, his wisdom, his grace, and his courage."

Love, McConaughey said, is "someone looks themselves in the mirror, accepts that everything is not perfect, and finds the strength to say that out to the world," said McConaughey.

Accepting the award, Love said, "Humbled does not even begin to describe the feeling. ...   I accept this award as both an honor and a challenge. A challenge to not only continue on my path, but to push beyond it, and to stay vocal, even when silence feels safer."

The former NBA champion received national attention when he penned an emotional 2018 essay in the Players Tribune that revealed he had a panic attack during a game in 2017.

"When I got to the bench, I felt my heart racing faster than usual. Then I was having trouble catching my breath," he wrote at the time. "It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk."

"I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set," Love continued. "I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out. When I got up to walk out of the huddle, I knew I couldn’t reenter the game — like, literally couldn’t do it physically."

The episode inspired Love to attend to his mental wellbeing and to inspire others to do the same.

Kevin Love
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Ahead of formally receiving the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, Love said he hopes the lessons he's learned can reach others.

"It is an absolute honor to receive this award and I am incredibly humbled by it," Love said in a statement to ESPN. "In telling my story, if I can help just one child that is suffering to make sense of what they are experiencing, I know my efforts have been worth it.

"And I hope one day we are able to erase the stigma around mental illness, starting with public conversations around mental health and encouraging people to seek help when they need it, followed by research, action, and change," he said.

Other past winners of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage include Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Nelson Mandela, and Robin Roberts.

The ESPYs are taking place remotely this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and are being hosted by Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson, USWNT captain Megan Rapinoe and WNBA player Sue Bird.