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‘They’re amazingly isolated’: is social media making NBA players miserable?

NBA commissioner says many of the stars he meets are unhappy. The criticism they face on Twitter and Instagram could be to blame

Sometimes it can be challenging for NBA players to focus entirely on basketball. Recently, Russell Westbrook got into a back and forth with a fan accused of using racially tinged language – the man was later banned from the team’s games for life. And it’s not just on court where players can feel exposed – it happens on social media too. The most infamous case came when Kevin Durant was caught using multiple burner accounts on Twitter to defend himself against criticism.

All of this instability and confrontation points to a question that has been asked often lately: are today’s NBA players, despite their money and fame, unhappy? The issue of mental health in the NBA took center stage last season when both Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan spoke candidly about their struggles with anxiety and depression. At the latest MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, NBA commissioner Adam Silver suggested that many players are unhappy. He said that “in an age of anxiety” many of the players he meets with are “genuinely unhappy” and “amazingly isolated”. NBA hall of famer Charles Barkley, ignoring the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness, was quick to disagree. How could players be struggling, he asked, when they make millions of dollars a year and stay in the best hotels in the world?

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