After making honorable mention All-American at Iowa State, Royce White became the sixteenth selection in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets. He was the first person in Cyclone history to lead the team in points, steals, rebounds, blocks and assists in one season. White made news last season by refusing to play unless concerns about the NBA’s and Houston Rockets’ mental health policies were addressed. This fall, he was among the final cuts for the Philadelphia 76ers. After a series of frustrating interactions with the sports media, he gives here what he is calling his “last interview with a sports journalist.” This is edited for flow. Listen to the entire interview here.
Dave Zirin: Why did you say this was going to be your last sports interview?
Royce White: I just found very, I want to say, not great success working with sports journalists. And not that the journalists individually aren’t good people, but when the story gets back and it gets edited and chopped up…. I’m just getting away from that altogether, because I think I’ve said everything that I could say and this is the last time of me speaking about my situation.
You were in training camp with the Philadelphia 76ers this past year. Did you think you were going to make the team?
I was pretty confident that I was going to make the team. I had earned the respect of my teammates and the coaches, and I had proven that I could play with the guys. Proven that I was a good teammate, proven that some of the things that were being questioned that maybe shouldn’t have been questioned—that I could travel on a plane at all? Which was a preposterous question in and of itself, but I proved that was not going to be an issue. Everything in my mind said that I was going to make the team, but I understand that that doesn’t always happen.
On October 24, USA Today had an article that said you were a “slam dunk” to make the roster, and you were cut on the 25th. People who are basketball fans know that the 76ers are rebuilding. Why do you think you were cut from the team?
Well, I think it’s hard to say… As much as I would say that my mental illness has something to do with it, which it does because of the way they evaluate players as commodities in the league. It’s taken into account when they’re drafted, even. But, I will give the NBA a break on the fact that the NBA is in the era of a shuffle format. Players are traded, cut and that type of thing for all kinds of reasons. And this has nothing to do with the politics of the sport or the mental health policy.
Sticking on the subject of the 76ers, before you went to training camp, did you have assurances from the team that they would respect your mental health concerns?
You know, coming into Philly, and knowing that [GM] Sam Hinkie had come from the Houston situation, I knew that he had an understanding of it and that gave me great reassurance that we would be able to go in good faith and tackle [mental-health] issues as they came. So, in actuality, a lot of the things we discussed in Houston never actually got to the table in Philly. We never had that real long discussion to sit down and say, “Ok, here are the things, right here. How are we going to attack them?” And I was cut before we had a chance to have that conversation.
There was that long team flight over to Europe for the preseason and you didn’t go. Was that in any way, shape or form connected to flying concerns?