Royce White is going to play in the NBA. Be it tonight against the San Antonio Spurs or on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the 22-year-old big man will put on a Sacramento Kings uniform and take the court, answering the question of whether he will ever play an NBA game.
The question is nearly two years in the making. It didn't work out for him in Houston or Philadelphia, and there were a few D-League experiments as well. He has been called a bust, but that is an oversimplification.
White’s story is about as complex as it gets. As the muscular former first-round pick tries to acclimate to his new team, he is not interested in delving deep into the mental health disorders that almost knocked him out of the league for good. It is a daily struggle that unfortunately has played out on a national stage.
Whether it’s tonight or whether it’s on Sunday, how excited are you to get this first game over and done with?
I’m really excited. Obviously, it’s been a long road, you know. A really up-and-down road, a lot of things involved in the road. For me to be able to get to this point, I’m just really thankful, even more so than excited. No matter what happens, I’m just thankful that I’m able to be here still and persevere through tumultuous times.
Professional sports have become a vehicle for social change over the last few years. We’ve seen it with Jason Collins. We’ve seen it with the bullying situation with the Miami Dolphins. How much do you want this to not be about trying to make change for you personally? How much do you want this to just be about basketball?
I mean, as tough as that is to get across, because of the position I was put in, as one of the first people to challenge the mental health process and procedure and things like that, it really was never about changing the landscape for me. It’s more so about surviving myself in this setting. Like I’ve said in the past, my advocacy for mental health and the way that mental health is treated extends far beyond the court and it will always be that way, whether I play, whether I don’t play. I’m playing because I love it. I’m playing because I want to. It brings me joy. Not to bring about any social change.
If this platform, with as much as we know about mental health and how important it is now, if this platform has to serve as what motivates us to change it, then we should be ashamed of ourselves.
You’ve had a little bit of time to see (the Kings). How do you fit in with this group of players? And you’ve had a little bit of time to self assess, are you good enough to be one of the best 400-plus players in the world that gets a shot on this stage?
I think I'm good enough. I don’t know who else would agree or disagree with that, but I think I’m good enough. As far as the team goes, I’m young, just like a lot of these guys. I think that kind of allows me to gel and fit in well anyway. A lot of us grew up through our high school years playing against each other, playing with each other. I still remember me and DeMarcus (Cousins) being at the first LeBron (James) camp together. We relate to each other. And as far as what I can bring -- whatever is needed. Whatever they ask, hopefully I can execute that.
Are you ready to shake the stigma as one of the highest picks ever taken in the NBA draft to never play a minute on the court?
I never really pay attention to those stats. Being close to my situation I understand that it’s far more complex than most people can ever realize. As is such with most situations. What you read in the media, the situation is far more complex than that, no matter what we’re talking about -- politics, sports, religion. It’s a complexity that on the surface you can’t really tell. Even if I was never to play a game, I understand and appreciated the process of what I’ve gone through to this point and there are people involved, so it’s tough.
Are you ready to do whatever it takes -- whatever this team needs, be it on the floor, getting on a plane, whatever it is that a regular NBA player has to deal with?
Yeah, for sure. I think so. But at the same time, I think I’ve always been ready. The misinformation age would have you believe that I wasn’t ready to do some of those things. But it’s a lot more complex than that. That’s all I can say about it.
The misinformation age, I just have to ask you, is that the age we are in? Are we in the age where you are what people read about you and think about you, regardless of whether it’s completely accurate?
Oh yeah, situations as you know, as we all know, there are always a lot more variables than you can put into words in whatever column you get or how many characters you get in a tweet or however many words your story can be on your blog. The situation has more variables than you are allowed to print most times. You don’t get three- or four-page blogs or tweets. I understand that and as much as I think that people misread what’s going on with me, at the same time, I’m not blameful to them. I just understand that that’s the landscape. And I’m OK with that.
James Ham is an editor for Cowbell Kingdom.