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From the sport to behind the lens: Famous athletes turned photographers

Athletes turned photographers. Taking their unique and skilled eyes on the field/court/ice and transferring it to behind the lens.

Some of the best athletes on the planet have shown to be talented in other fields, like becoming successful designers or actors. And in recent years, athletes have also turned to photography to showcase a completely different side of their talents.

As these athletes get behind the lens, they often find themselves photographing sports events. Some have also gone outside the sports world and photographed concerts, wildlife and their experiences in other countries. 

Here are some of the most notable names of athletes turned photographers.

Kevin Durant

KD, The Slim Reaper, had a front row seat to Super Bowl 50 when he was invited by the NFL as a credentialed photographer for one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

Kevin Durant photography. It even also has a nice ring to it.

Durant has talked about wanting to explore himself outside of basketball. And photography is one of the many ventures he has shown an interest in. He is as skilled a basketball player as there is on the planet. But he has also shown that his talents go beyond the basketball court.

Durant’s photography portfolio looks like it will just keep on building.

Ken Griffey Jr. 

One of the best baseball players to ever play the game and as influential a baseball player as there has ever been. The Kid has picked up a camera and become a professional photographer, working for places like ESPN.

He has been seen on the sidelines of many NFL and NCAA football games, even photographing a game in which his son played in. Ken Griffey Jr. has taken photography seriously ever since he retired in 2010. He is the prototypical example of star athlete turned photographer

Randy Johnson

One of the best pitchers of his era is The Big Unit.

Johnson, who majored in photojournalism in college, began photographing for major media outlets after his retirement. He has photographed for NASCAR.

Johnson has also gone outside of the sports world with his photography. He has captured wildlife like the African safaris, musical artists and concerts. Still, nonetheless he remains one of the most famous and prestigious athletes turned photographers.

Tyson Chandler

The former NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner got into photography right in the prime of his career.

He debuted a photography exhibition called “A Year in a New York Minute.” It documented photographs he took over the course of a year in New York City, London, and Tanzania.

Chandler has said that his 7-foot-1 frame allows him to see angles that most aren’t able to. A benefit of being one of many athletes turned photographers.

Annice Lynn

A former National Figure Skater, Lynn has become an award-winning sports photographer. Her work often captures what goes on behind the scenes of figure skating. She uses her experience as a figure skater to capture the moments that someone not familiar with the sport may miss. 

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Apparently there’s an occasion for practically EVERYTHING, so Happy World Photography Day !

For the third year in a row, I’m super stoke and grateful for the opportunity to be part of the 2020 Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival as an exhibitor and panel speaker for both @womenphotographersmy & @womenstreetphotographers to share the love of photography and visual story telling. Due to the amidst concern of the novel coronavirus, @malaysia_klpf will be hosting its annual exhibition virtually from the 19 August – 19 September 2020. Making KLPF 2020 the first online photo festival in the region.

So mark your September calendar guys and join me on the #KLPF2020 FB Live. Here are the programmes lineup schedules:

Women Street Photographers (@womenstreetphotographers) A dialogue by the curator and the photographers. Panel: Gulnara Samoilova (@gulnara_nyc Founder of Women Street Photographers), Ximena Echague (@ximena_echague Documentary & Street Photographer) & Annice Lyn (Visual Artist, Documentary & Sports Photographer) Country: USA/Malaysia Date: 13 September 2020, Sunday Time: 9.30pm to 11.00pm (Malaysia Time)

Women ‘Photographers Malaysia (@womenphotographersmy)
Her.Perspective’ – An Observation of the Female Eye: A showcase of powerful visuals by women photographers in Malaysia and is intended to break boundaries, impact, and encourage an inclusive culture within the creatives industry in Malaysia. Speakers: Annice Lyn, Aisha Nazar (@aishanazar), Carol Yong (@kehrol) Date: 15 September 2020, Tuesday Time: 9.30pm to 10.30pm

This year will be a special in particular, as the WPM shutter sisters & I were given a platform to conduct an open call to Women Photographers across Malaysia to participate and be apart of something much larger than us an individuals. Not to mention, able to have the capacity to provide windows of opportunities for others, that was once bestowed me was unfathomable, in a good way !

Hence do check out the KLPF 2020 Virtual Online Exhibition, LINK IN BIO ! #WPMPhotos #WomenPhotographersMY 
#KLPF #KLPF2020 #HERPerspective #WomenStreetPhotographers

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Isaac Rochell

A defensive end for the Los Angeles Chargers, Rochell has photographed boxing champions. But he also uses his platform to warn people of the dangers social media can have on someone’s mental health.

Rochell has also photographed many soccer games and even a Lakers game. Like everyone on this list, Rochell has shown he is more than an athlete. An athlete turned photographer.

How Giannis and his brothers’ support of each other inspires us

Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brothers support each other through everything. They do not sour at one another’s success, or grow salty when they feel like the other’s good fortune should have been theirs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the back-to-back MVP of the NBA, watched his younger brother Kostas Antetokounmpo become an NBA champion this past October with the Lakers.

Giannis, one of the top players in the league, surely felt it was his time for a championship this year, as his Milwaukee Bucks were favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference. But it was Giannis brother Kostas who held up the trophy at the end, and Giannis, along with the rest of the brothers, supported him loudly and unabashedly.

Different players

While Kostas only played in five games all season, he still was awarded a ring. Giannis has been all over social media showing love and giving praise to his brother after winning the one thing Giannis has not been able to accomplish up until this point.

It is easy to imagine a situation where Giannis would be a little hurt while watching his brother, who barely played, win a ring. Giannis also lost while being a heavy favorite to win a championship this season. He obviously has all the individual success, but Kostas has the one thing that Giannis needs to solidify his legacy. 

Giannis and his brothers

The Antetokounmpo family is one of the closest in the NBA. There are five brothers. Four of whom play basketball and three of whom are in the NBA.

They deeply support and love one another, and promote positivity every chance they get. They spend a bunch of time together and it is easy to see the genuine love they have for one another. 

The oldest Antetokounmpo brother, Thanasis, is also a teammate of Giannis. There’s no question that Giannis’ influence over the Bucks is at least a part of the reason why Thanasis is on the roster. He had been out of the NBA for three seasons before joining the Bucks. 

Alex Antetokounmpo is currently playing overseas in Europe. He is the youngest Antetokounmpo brother. He will be eligible to play in the NBA by entering the 2021 draft. Giannis has often said that he believes that Alex could be better than he is. Just another example of how Giannis and his brothers inspire each other and us.

Disney is planning on making a movie titled “Greek Freak” based on Giannis’ life and his unlikely path to the NBA. The movie will also feature his upbringing with his brothers.

The Antetokounmpo family is one that, win or lose, will always spread positivity and love. They come from humble beginnings and just want to see one another succeed. The family dynamic is one that we can all look at and appreciate. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, but he has not had the kind of playoff success he’s wanted to. The kind of playoff success that separates the great players in the NBA history books, from the legends.

Still, he goes to bat for his brothers and knows it’s bigger than basketball. He inspires us to be supportive, while still staying focused.

We expect the Antetokounmpo brothers to support each other and make noise in the NBA for years to come.

#PlayForChange: How DJ Set Free Richardson embodied a movement

DJ Set Free Richardson has always been able to bridge the gap between athletes, hip hop, and the culture. He is a cultural pioneer who is known as the founder of And1 Mixtape and The Compound Gallery.

He is also the creator of the NBA’s newest “Play for Change” logo, which embodied a movement among its players during a time in which the sports world was divided. 

Play for Change

Back before the NBA had decided to restart its season, there were questions as to whether players should even play, considering the social justice movement happening in America. Richardson was watching all of this unfold, and began to think of a way to encompass how the players felt. 

DJ set Free's play for change logo
Jae Crowder sports the Play For Change hoodie while in the NBA bubble

“I just thought that there wasn’t a symbol for the players to be able to connect the narrative to a mark. So when the George Floyd situation happened, that was the spark that made me come up with the idea to create change.”

DJ Set Free Richardson

New NBA logo (unofficial)

The Play for Change logo depicts a player holding a basketball on his hip with his left arm. The player also stands with his right fist raised.

This was inspired by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics. The silhouette was used by Richardson because powerful history silhouette logos have had. Various NBA players such as Kyrie Irving and Jae Crowder have worn Play for Change apparel. 

“People are wearing something that’s not about me, they want to make change. They’re speaking without words,” said Richardson.

“The lasting impact I want of the logo is to resonate that the world of basketball is helping humanity through a bunch of different lanes.”

DJ Set Free’s inspiration

Richardson draws on inspiration from some of his favorite athletes of all time like Muhammad Ali. He says that all athletes have their own issues that they want to give attention to. Also, one of the key things for him is just trying to help people. 

“I just wanted to show a light on athletes and show that they’re humans by showing what else they’ve got going on. And I think that people always can relate to them off the court.”

DJ Set Free

Richardson and his team at The Compound are now focusing on a new apparel line centered around the number seven. It is being repped by athletes, musical artists and actors like Carmelo Anthony, Jadakiss and Don Cheadle.

Richardson says the number seven is significant to him because of the connections it has to God. And some of his favorite sports figures of all-time.

DJ Set Free number 7 design
Tyler Herro finishes up a game donning Set Free’s No. 7 fitted hat

“That’s what the number seven represents to me. But it took on a life of its own for a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons.”

DJ Set Free Richardson

Ten percent of all profits made from this new line has gone to charities such as City Harvest, Foodbank for New York City, and the Black Artist Fund

“It was important for me. Anything I do I always try to give back.” 

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I’m cut from a different cloth! 7

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The NFL’s struggle with COVID-19: Where does the league stand now?

The NFL’s battle with COVID-19 over the past couple of weeks has led to multiple games being postponed. Several teams have had outbreaks, including notable Patriots players like Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the season will probably have to be extended due to all of the cancellations. He has said that the NFL will be flexible in its scheduling since this is a season like no other. 

First signs of trouble

The Tennessee Titans had the first major outbreak and went two weeks without playing a game. At one point the team had 15 members of the team including staff and players, test positive. That is, in most certain terms, a COVID outbreak among the organization.

There were reports that the Titans had not been wearing masks as protocol had called for. An NFL COVID outbreak loomed large.

But luckily, the team has not had any positive tests since. 

Other teams have also had outbreaks within their team facilities. It has led to cancelled practices and games. 

The Atlanta Falcons also closed their facility after they had someone test positive. The Eagles added Matt Pryor to the COVID-19 list on Friday. The Jacksonville Jaguars placed 75 percent of their practice squad on the COVID-19 list as well. 

Cases continue

The Baltimore Ravens placed Brandon Williams on the COVID-19 list. A Denver Broncos coach tested positive and didn’t travel with the team for their game on Sunday.  The Patriots have had one of the bigger NFL COVID outbreaks. They have had to cancel multiple practices. 

The Philadelphia Eagles’ Darius Slay said earlier this week that the NFL shouldn’t have had a season. 

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, says that there have been about 100 positive cases that included players, coaches and team personnel to this point. 

The NFL has also cancelled their version of an All-Star game, The Pro Bowl, for this season due to COVID-19 concerns. 

Where does the league stand?

This past Sunday was the first time in weeks where all games on the schedule were played. However, positive tests keep on coming in and the NFL is putting all of its players and team personnel at risk with every game played. 

At least nine teams are allowing fans to come and watch the game in person. It is dangerous for everyone involved, especially when the NFL has struggled to keep the COVID outbreak under control. 

It’s clear at this point that the NFL will continue to put players and personnel at risk if it means that games will be played, and revenue increased. 

How many rings does LeBron James have? Enough to call him a legend

How many rings does LeBron James have? There’s a question that’ll continue to pop-up in sports arguments all over the world until the NBA season starts up again.

LeBron James won his fourth ring and led the Lakers to their 17th championship. But what exactly does it mean for his legacy?

How many rings does LeBron James have? Let’s count ’em up.

LeBron’s fourth ring cements him as basketball’s GOAT. He now has 10 finals appearances, including eight in a row from 2011-2018, four Finals MVPs along with four regular-season MVPs, and 16 first-team selections which are the most by any player. 

He has routinely carried historically weak teams like the Cavalier teams in 2007 and 2018 to the NBA Finals. While many like to use his losses as reasons for why he can’t be the GOAT, it’s actually why his case may be stronger than Jordans. 

LeBron is the best floor-raiser in NBA history. This means that with LeBron on your team, the floor of your team is a championship contender. LeBron has never been eliminated in the first round.

In the three seasons he missed the playoffs, two came in his first two seasons and the third came in his first year with the Lakers, when he was hurt. At the time of his injury the Lakers were the 4th seed. 

Jordan’s case as the GOAT is perfection.

He has six championships in six chances, including two three-peats. However, he played in 15 seasons only managing to make the finals six times, and had the benefit of taking a year and a half off in the prime of his career.

He made the playoffs three times with a record under .500. James lost in the first round three times and missed the playoffs twice. He also played in an era that saw six new expansion teams, which made the talent pool around the league even weaker than it was.

Is LeBron James a true sports legend, tho?

LeBron has now played in 17 seasons and has 10 finals appearances. An argument many make is that LeBron played in a weak Eastern Conference. While it is partly true, it ignores a couple of facts.

He is the reason for many teams falling apart including the Pistons who had been to six straight conference finals, the big 3 Celtics, the Derrick Rose Bulls, and the Paul George Pacers.

LeBron has faced off against better teams in the Finals than Jordan as well. Jordan’s best competitor is between an old Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler.

LeBron faced off against Tim Duncan (3 times), Kevin Durant (3 times), Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry(4 times), and Dirk Nowitzki. The talent is just better than it was in the ’90s. 

LeBron also has some of the most unique championships in NBA history. The 2016 3-1 comeback against the Warriors, who had the best regular-season record of all-time at 73-9, was the only 3-1 comeback in Finals history.

Why that fourth ring means so much…

LeBron’s fourth ring comes after a pandemic paused the season mid-way, and forced the NBA to play in a bubble for the first time ever. 

The only blemish on LeBron’s career is his 2011 performance and loss to the underdog Dallas Mavericks. He struggled throughout the series and especially in 4th quarters.

However, as he says so himself, the loss was crucial for him to learn how to win.

LeBron presence on any roster instantly makes them a title contender, even at age 35. By the time he retires he’ll most likely be the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, with over 10,000 assists and rebounds. He’ll be the only player in NBA history to have those numbers.

LeBron’s fourth ring only strengthens his argument as the best to ever play the sports. Many will still argue he is behind Jordan, but with LeBron at age 35 and still playing like he’s in his prime, he will only continue to add to his resume and continue to make history.

At 43-years-old, Tom Brady is proving that he isn’t washed yet

At 43 years old, in his first season with his new team — a season unlike any we have seen before, with no preseason to prepare and gain chemistry and improve one’s fitness — Tom Brady is proving he still isn’t washed.

GOAT status cemented… but what about now?

There’s no doubt that Tom Brady has as strong of a case as anyone when discussing who is the best quarterback of all time. But what about right now? The 43-year-old is off to a good start this season, putting up a fight against the always undefeated father time. 

Brady may no longer have the arm strength he had in his prime, but he is still effective due to his knowledge of the game and years of experience.

Through four games this season, Brady’s thrown 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Those 11 touchdowns are tied for third-most by any quarterback this year.

Brady’s move to Tampa Bay after 20 seasons with New England has been relatively smooth considering it is the first time in his career he is playing with a new head coach in a new environment.

The Buccaneers enter Week 5 at 3-1 and in first place of the NFC South division, which is unfamiliar territory for the franchise. 

Revitalizing a dead franchise

The Buccaneers haven’t made the Playoffs since 2007, but the addition of Brady and some other key vets like Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette have made the playoffs not just a reality, but an expectation.

Brady also has a lot to prove, as doubters have always tried to tie his success to the strong culture in New England and his former coach Bill Belichick. 

There was major concern after Week 1 that maybe Brady was just washed at this point. He looked uncharacteristically lost, throwing two interceptions and only completing 63 percent of his passes.

He’s also thrown multiple pick-6s in the first few games. Since then, he’s bounced back strong and looks more like his old self. 

In Week 4, Brady became the oldest QB in NFL history to throw for five touchdowns. This could be a sign of Brady getting more comfortable in his new system.

The Buccaneers have a ton of talent and were considered to be big winners of this past offseason. Brady is a huge reason for that. 

Brady is still among the league’s best

Brady may no longer be the best quarterback in the league like he has been in years past, but he is still up there. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson all have strong cases as the best quarterbacks in the league, but it’s hard not to at least mention Brady’s name in the conversation. 

Even if you disagree, it’s hard to see what he’s done so far this season and think Tom Brady is washed.

At age 43, Brady may be going through his most challenging season just yet. He is getting older, on a new team, with new coaching and fan base that is starving for success. If any quarterback in NFL history is up to the task, it’s definitely Brady.

Pau Gasol with the Bryants

How Pau Gasol continues to be Kobe Bryant’s best friend after his death

Pau Gasol and Kobe formed a brotherhood as beautiful as they come.

Gasol spent seven seasons as a teammate of Kobe Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Those seven seasons included two championships and the growth of a brotherhood between the two that hasn’t stopped even since Kobe’s tragic death.

Looking after Kobe’s family

When Kobe passed away along with his daughter, Gigi, and seven others in a helicopter crash, he left behind his wife and three daughters. 

Uncle” Gasol has stepped in and made sure to look after the Bryant family in what has been a difficult time for the family. Pau and Kobe frequently referred to each other as brothers even after their playing days. 

Gasol spent his 40th birthday with the Bryant family and for Gigi’s 14th birthday, he sent the family a cake. He also sent Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, a bouquet of flowers for her wedding anniversary.

Kobe made Pau the godfather of his children. Gasol has made sure to be there in any way possible for the Bryant family, who are no doubt hurting. Pau Gasol and Kobe’s brotherhood is clear, even after Kobe’s unfortunate passing.

Gasol’s wife Catherine McDonnell, recently gave birth to their first child together. With Vanessa Bryant’s blessing, they honored the Bryant family by naming her Elisabet Gianna Gasol. 


In game 1 of the NBA Finals, Gasol showed up to the virtual crowd wearing a Lakers “Black Mamba” edition Kobe Bryant jersey. It was a way of paying tribute to Kobe as the “Black Mamba” edition jerseys were made to honor him this season.

The Lakers are 4-0 in the playoffs when wearing the jersey up until this point. 

There is no doubt that what Kobe and Pau were able to accomplish on the court was legendary. Their relationship with one another, however, was always deeper than basketball.

Even after Kobe’s death, we can see just how close he and Pau Gasol were and what their friendship meant to one another. 

Numbers don’t lie: Where are all the Black baseball players?

The MLB, for a while now, has struggled with an issue that doesn’t seem to be improving. There’s a lack of Black ballplayers in the MLB.

It wasn’t always this way. Some of the best and most famous MLB players have been Black. This list includes Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr. who was the face of the league at one point. 

The percentage of African-American players in the MLB peaked in 1981 at 18.7%. That number has not reached above 10% since 2004. 

On opening day this season, MLB rosters were bigger than they ever were at the beginning of a season due to COVID-19. That meant each MLB team had rosters with 30 players on them.

Here is how many players on those rosters were Black:

The total number of Black ballplayers comes out to 65, or just 7.2% of the entire league. This number does not include players who started the season on taxi squads or the injured and restricted lists.

The Diamondbacks, Royals, and Rays did not have a single Black player on their Opening Day active roster. The Mariners had the most in the league with 10, the same as their entire division combined. 

So why are the numbers so drastically low? 

The lack of Black baseball players is deeply rooted in our country’s systemic problems. The cost of baseball equipment can be huge.

Players need gloves, bats, cleats, batting gloves, helmets etc. This can come out to hundreds of dollars and does not include travel expenses or league fees. 

As of 2010, African-American families had the highest poverty rate in America among all ethnic groups at 27.4%.

A family struggling to make ends meet simply cannot afford to cough up hundreds of dollars for a kid to play baseball when there are cheaper alternatives like basketball and football. 

The sport is really expensive to play

This prices out lower-income families and leads to kids never taking an interest in baseball. Still, the issue is even more complex than just that. 

In comparison to the NFL and NBA, making the MLB is a huge grind with very little pay. Players have to go through years in the minor leagues.

According to The Athletic, the average salary of a player in Triple-A in 2018 was just $15,000. Some even have to take on extra jobs to support themselves and their families. Minor leaguers also deal with heavy amounts of travel on buses, awful food, and bad living conditions. 

By the time these players make it to the MLB they are under 6-year contracts which often pay the league minimum. Very few ever make it to this point and those that do, are already in their late 20’s at this point.

The NBA and NFL have much simpler and profitable paths for potential athletes 

An example is Kyler Murray, who was drafted ninth overall in the 2018 MLB draft by the Oakland Athletics had agreed to a $4 million dollar signing bonus but ended up returning it when he was drafted first overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft.

He signed a four-year $35 million dollar contract with a $23 million signing bonus. It’s safe to say he made the right decision. 

Until the MLB puts forth more of an effort to welcome Black ballplayers, these numbers will continue to stay drastically low.

The MLB needs to provide more funding to the inner cities

If the MLB invested more money into inner-city baseball foundations, ran more baseball clinics, and simply made the game more appealing financially and racially, they would undoubtedly see better results.

Black MLB players like David Price, Tim Anderson, and Mookie Betts have all spoken out to how unwelcoming baseball can be to minorities. Numerous other current and former Black MLB players share that same sentiment.

The MLB needs to do more and until they do, we can continue to expect to see them struggle with the African-American community. 

From the NBA to homeless: What we can learn from Delonte West’s story

Photographs were taken last week of former NBA player Delonte West holding a small cardboard sign, panhandling. West has a long-documented battle with mental health.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was recently seen picking up West and bringing him into a rehabilitation center, which he will pay for.

Here’s the story on how West went from making over $16 million in his 8-year career to being homeless.

Delonte West’s mental health

West has always had his struggles with mental illness. He says he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. West has also publicly said that he “used to try and kill himself all the time.”

West also admitted to cutting himself and swallowing pills. He then pleaded guilty to weapons charges in 2009 after police found loaded guns in his motorcycle and was sentenced to an eight-month home-detention. 

West was initially a first-round pick by the Boston Celtics. He spent a few years there before being traded to the Seattle Supersonics and eventually the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was in Cleveland where he had the most success in his NBA career. He then played well enough to earn a three-year $12 million dollar extension.

NBA journeyman

Furthermore, his biggest moment was hitting a game-winning shot in a playoff game against the Wizards. West had become one of LeBron’s more reliable teammates during his first stint in Cleveland. Then came the rumors that West had been romantically involved with James’ mother, which he has always denied and has never been proven to be true. 

West last played in the NBA in 2012 for the Dallas Mavericks before being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team before being cut. He then spent the next couple of years playing in the G-League and in China. His NBA comeback attempt finally ended in 2015. 

Delonte West frequently blew through his money. Mark Cuban reportedly connected West with a financial adviser in 2014, but West still ended up back in the streets due to his spending habits. 

West had purchased homes for both his parents and helped support other relatives financially. During the 2011 NBA lockout, West even worked at Home Depot and at a furniture store. 

Living on the streets

In 2016, a photograph showed West walking in the streets barefoot and in a hospital gown. It turns out he had been given the wrong medication which had caused him to hallucinate. 

Earlier this year, video surfaced of him being beaten and arrested. Delonte West’s mental health has clearly been suffering for some time.

The past few years has seen West receive support from the NBA community like his former coach Doc Rivers. His former teammates Jameer Nelson and LeBron James have offered their help as well.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has long been one of his biggest supporters and even connected West back with his mother before bringing him to the rehabilitation center. 

The importance of mental health in sports

Delonte West’s story is one that shows just how important mental health is. It is why other NBA athletes like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love have been so outspoken about their own mental health struggles and why the NBA has taken more of a role to remove the stigma behind it. 

Being a professional athlete can be difficult and take a toll on one’s mental health. No amount of money or recognition can change that. 

With West now in a rehabilitation center, we can only hope that this is the first step in his recovery.

A Heat-Lakers NBA Finals shows just how important culture is to success

With the NBA Finals set to go underway, culture is a huge part of why both the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers have made it to this point. This is evident in three separate categories: team identity, roster construction, and style of play. 

Team identity

Regardless of what franchise LeBron plays for, he becomes the immediate face of that team. He was always the face of the Cavaliers, he became the face of the Heat during his stint there even with Heat legend Dwyane Wade on the team and he is now the face of the most storied franchise in NBA history, the Lakers. 

The Heat Culture comes from the front office, with longtime President Pat Riley and Coach Erik Spoelstra implementing a very rigid system that pushes players to fulfill their potential.

They are known for being one of the best-conditioned teams in the league year-in and year-out. Udonis Haslem’s veteran leadership is a huge reason for the consistency among the way the Heat operate. He’s part of why the Heat are going to the Finals with their third different roster than in 2006 and from 2011-2014. 

The Heat culture is well-documented. Their culture is evident in their ability to develop these players into high-level NBA players. Coach Erik Spoelstra and Team President Pat Riley have been crucial to keeping the Heat competitive even though they may lack the talent level most championship-caliber teams have. It’s why they were able to sign Jimmy Butler. 

Roster construction

There is a big difference in how these teams came to be. Free-agent signings make up most of The Lakers. On the contrary, undrafted players, late lottery picks and opportunistic trades largely make up the Heat.

Seven of the Lakers 15 players are lottery picks, with three of them being former No. 1 picks. Their two biggest stars were acquired from free agency and a trade. 11 of their players were not on the roster last season. They lack the continuity that most championship teams have. 

This is relevant to the culture a LeBron led team has because any team he joins often undergoes a huge roster overhaul. It happened in 2011 when he joined Miami, in 2014 when he returned to Cleveland, and just this past offseason with the Lakers. 

The Heat are the opposite. They are a scrappy team filled with guys who at one point or another have been doubted. The highest drafted player on the team is 36-year-old Andre Iguodala, who was the ninth pick. Undrafted players make up six of their 15 players.

Their roster construction has contributed to their underdog mentality and is an important part of their identity. It is a huge part of why they were able to eliminate the Bucks and Celtics, two teams that are arguably more talented. 

Style of play

Any team that employs LeBron James immediately adopts his identity in terms of style of play. This means a heavy dose of LeBron operating out of isolations and pick-and-rolls surrounded by shooters. It’s effective because it maximizes both of his passing and scoring abilities. This often leads to his teams finishing games with smaller lineups to also provide more spacing in crunch time, making him and the team much harder to guard.   

For better or worse, the wins and losses will always fall at the feet of LeBron and he prefers it that way. His presence on any basketball team immediately makes them a championship caliber team and that’s been the case since 2007. This can be a relief for his teammates because often the pressure doesn’t fall on them, but rather on LeBron himself. 

Heat and Lakers culture

That’s largely the Lakers culture, and Heat Culture is the idea that no matter who comes in the game, the same level of execution, defense and effort is expected from them. They have an equal opportunity offense, with Butler and Adebayo as the focal points but always willing to find the hot hand. They are constantly running shooters like Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro off of screens for threes. 

Their defense is a critical part of their success and possibly the biggest on-court symbol of their culture. They all compete on that end and are versatile enough to be able to defend any kind of offense. It is borderline impossible to get on the court in a Heat Jersey without at least competing on that end of the floor, and has been the case since Erik Spoelstra became their head coach. 

It is interesting to look back at LeBron’s time in Miami and look back at how these two differences in cultures meshed together. It worked well enough for four NBA Finals trips in four years and two MVP seasons, but there was some tension when LeBron decided to leave. Pat Riley says he took it personally. 

The difference in styles will make for an interesting Finals. There are plenty of storylines and on paper, these teams match up really well. It’s hard to argue that the Heat or LeBron way is better as both have seen championship level success, but there’s no doubt that the contrast in styles will be seen on the court. We are eagerly awaiting the impact of the Heat and Lakers cultures during this finals.