Kevin Love wants to know what makes the great ones tick. And the great ones he’s concerned with aren’t just his peers and predecessors in the NBA. Sure, Love’s fascinated by how his teammate LeBron James became one of the greatest basketball players ever while balancing a family. But he’s also intrigued by how director Alfred Hitchcock became an iconic filmmaker and how Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made the transition from wrestling to superstardom outside of the WWE.
Love, a five-time All-Star and NBA champion, has always been curious in nature, but he hasn’t always been able to figure out the inner workings of his own mind. After 29 years of life, Love finally began to understand what makes him tick by writing a Players’ Tribune piece earlier this month about the state of his own mental health. The struggles he’s had to maintain his mental health aren’t new, but the vulnerability he’s recently showcased is.
“I had always known [about my struggles]. I had just never really looked in the mirror and said, ‘You need to deal with this now,’” Love tells Complex. “I always thought I’ll suppress it, tuck it away and be a man. [But I’ve realized] there is a way we can talk about these types of things and put ourselves out there, [and] yet not lose our sense of masculinity.”
Love says the initial response to his article was positively overwhelming. In writing it, he was able to kick down a door that Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan opened when he divulged his own battle with depression in The Toronto Star last month. On the heels of DeRozan’s announcement, the Cavaliers Center-Forward wrote a story of his own, one which took him about a week to finish.
Love admits his article was not only inspired by DeRozan, but also by Tony Soprano. He has his girlfriend, Kate Bock, to thank for that. The two watched the HBO drama The Sopranos together as Love was brainstorming for his piece. As Love was preparing to share his most intimate struggles with others, Soprano, played by late James Gandolfini, was doing just that in the opening moments in the first episode of the show. In that scene, Soprano tells his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi, about his battle with depression and his panic attacks. While watching, Bock turned to Love, who recently started going to therapy himself, and said, “Is this you here?”
I’ve realized there is a way we can talk about these types of things and put ourselves out there, and yet not lose our sense of masculinity.
While widely praised, Love’s confessional article is just the tip of the iceberg of his burgeoning off-the-court persona. In addition to being a top-flight athlete, he’s well versed in film, music, and wine and he’s fearless in speaking his mind. To boot, he’s also a brand ambassador for Banana Republic and has his own capsule collection coming out this September which was designed by Love in collaboration with the brand's design team. Fashion is at the forefront of the NBA and Love is now one of the league’s top trendsetters.
Silver Screen Inspiration
“The league has forced guys to find out who they are from a fashion standpoint,” Love says. “The arena functions as a runway for a lot of athletes. They’ve been able to express themselves and show who they are through fashion.”
Love, whose partnership with Banana Republic began three years ago, thinks social media changed the game when it comes to fashion in the NBA. Within seconds, you can find out what jacket he is wearing and buy it online. Love enjoys working with BR because this quintessential American brand allows him to walk the walk and be who he wants to be. Love doesn’t have one word to describe his ever-changing style, but it is evident that his fashion choices have an old school feel at their core.
“Paul Newman is someone I’ve always looked to for style,” Love adds. “He’s just so iconic in so many ways. And he’s a stud.”
“I think my style is evolving. The items in my capsule collection coming out this fall have a number of items that are nostalgic and made me feel like I was back in Oregon. There are also items that feel like you can wear anywhere. That is really who I am.”
If you talk to Kevin Love for five minutes it becomes more than obvious why he would cite Newman as an inspiration. The former Pac-10 Player of the Year is a film fanatic. He’s the guy you want by your side when the movie questions come up in HQ Trivia. Love can rattle off details about Hitchcock movies from the 1950s or explain how the CGI of the dragons, direwolves, and White Walkers has changed from season to season in HBO’s Game Of Thrones.
The first film Love ever saw in a movie theater was Jurassic Park. He still remembers his father—former NBA player Stan Love—covering his innocent eyes from the velociraptors. Though Love enjoys all kinds of movies, to him there is only one worth discussing when it comes to the greatest sports movies of all time.
“My favorite basketball movie is He Got Game,” Love says. “I used to actually watch as much as I could of that movie before every game my freshman year of high school because I loved the movie so much.” Like so many other high school–aged kids during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Love wanted to be Jesus Shuttlesworth, who was played by pro baller Ray Allen. Imagine telling a 14-year-old Love that he would one day play against Shuttlesworth in the NBA when he matched up with Allen.
Love’s early basketball journey featured a lot of Allen and even more hip-hop. His brother, Collin, introduced him to rap music at an early age and he can still recall how he became such a fan of the genre.
“I can remember the first albums we bought,” Love recalled. “CDs seem like a thing of the past, but it was Ready To Die and Born Again by Biggie.”
Love describes his music taste as diverse. One day he’s listening to Cam’ron and old school Dipset but then he’ll switch to Nas's Illmatic in advance of his upcoming trip to New York. But then he’ll get inspired watching Casino and listen to Rolling Stones for hours. When it comes to West Coast versus East Coast, he says he’s bi-coastal, listening to all the greats: Biggie, Dr. Dre, Snoog Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar. He’s also a fan of Nipsey Hussle, whose latest album Victory Lap he says is currently in heavy rotation in the Cavaliers locker room.
A Brand New Team
Speaking with Love about the Cavs’ recent lineup changes, he talks excitedly about the team's new roster, which includes Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, and George Hill. “It kind of has that training camp feel where you have fresh blood and guys are trying to figure out who they are and what they are about on a particular team,” Love says. “The most important thing is that we find our identity.”
There are only four players left from Cleveland’s 2016 championship team: LeBron, Love, Tristan Thompson, and J.R. Smith. Love jokingly refers to that group as “The Last of the Mohicans” when they sit next to each other on the team bus.
This season has been a challenging one for Love. First, there was the panic attack in November, which he fully details in his Players’ Tribune piece. There was the closed-door team meeting, during which, he was reportedly called out by teammates. Of course the broken hand, followed by coach Tryonn Lue's sudden health leave of absence.
“Whether it’s been basketball or away from the court, Ty has been a huge supporter of me from day one,” Love states. “Honesty and transparency have always been super important in our relationship. It’s not just basketball.” While Ty may be stepping out for a bit, his impact and guidance have helped Love to follow his vision and continue to do so.
Beyond the Court
It’s never just been about ball for Love and he’s been reminded of that throughout his career. The late Flip Saunders had a very special impact on Love’s career and taught him the value of prioritizing family. Then there’s the influence of LeBron, who is exemplary in his quests for greatness in the entertainment world and as a voice for social change.
Five months shy of his 30th birthday, Love is just scratching the surface of his ability to be a game changer off the court. In a short time, he’s added to the national conversation about mental health, created his own unique clothing line, and spearheaded the change in how big men play in today’s space-and-pace NBA.
“In some ways, I feel like I’ve seen it all and done it all. I think it is extremely valuable to have gone through it. It really helped me to share my story. I always say this quote: Only by admitting who we are, do we get what we want.”
It seems like it’s only a matter of time till he gets exactly what he wants.