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Kelly Oubre Jr. joins NBA players sharing mental health struggles: ‘We’re normal people, man’

Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates a basket last month. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

In the wake of DeMar DeRozan describing his battle with depression and Kevin Love sharing the story of the in-game panic he experienced last November in a personal Players’ Tribune essay, Kelly Oubre Jr. joined the chorus of NBA players speaking out about mental health. The Wizards’ 22-year-old forward said he can “100 percent” relate to DeRozan and Love’s recent comments, which have drawn praise and support from the NBA community and beyond.

“We’re normal human beings,” Oubre told NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes on this week’s “Wizards Tipoff” podcast. “We face a lot more adversity, and a lot more problems and struggles as a normal human being. It’s a little bit more amped up, we just can’t show it. I’m really good at keeping a poker face because when I was growing up, my dad always told me, ‘Don’t let anybody see you weak.’ Nobody sees that I’m weak, but deep down inside, I am going through a lot, and hell is turning over. … I just go in a quiet place and breathe, man. Just being mindful is the only way I know how to get through any anxiety, any depression or anything like that. That s— is serious, and I feel like people who are on the outside looking in don’t really understand because they see us as superheroes, but we’re normal people, man. We go through the issues that normal people go through times 10.”

Oubre, a New Orleans native, was uprooted from his home and moved to Houston when Hurricane Katrina hit as he was set to begin fourth grade in 2005. He carries the memories from that time in his life with him to this day.

“No matter what’s going on, I’m going to continue to thrive because I’m used to adversity,” Oubre told The Post’s Candace Buckner last year.

“I was baptized through fire,” Oubre told NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller earlier this season. “Everything that I’ve gone through in my life is still on my mind. I just carry the chip on my shoulder daily because it’s not going to go nowhere.”

When there’s turbulence beneath the surface for the player who goes by “Wave Papi” on social media, Oubre said he looks to his father, a regular in the stands at his games.

“He doesn’t even have to say anything to me,” Oubre, who is averaging a career-high 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds this season, told Hughes. “I just see him and I just feel like we’ve been through it all. This little piece of adversity, it’s not going to hurt me. I’m going to be able to get through it. He’s like a crutch that I use to stand on. In this life, man, a lot of people are coming out with things about mental health and I feel as if, yeah,  I’ve suffered from a lot of things in my life because I’ve been through a lot of things. You always need a person who is going to just bring you back to center and just bring you back to you.

“A lot of times, things can get overwhelming. I want to be great now, and when I play bad, I’m a little harder on myself than I should be. He’s there to calm me down. Mental health is definitely something that he always preaches. He worries about me keeping my head, because obviously I’m crazy as hell. I love him, because he’s there and he wants to see me be great.”

Listen to Oubre’s full interview with Hughes here.

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