By helping deliver a title to the Miami Heat, Kevin Love can inspire millions once again

By becoming a vital cog in the Heat’s 2024 NBA Finals run, Kevin Love's story can gain exposure and strengthen his fight to destigmatize mental health.
Miami Heat v Portland Trail Blazers
Miami Heat v Portland Trail Blazers / Soobum Im/GettyImages

While the Heat have made three Eastern Conference finals and two NBA Finals appearances in the Jimmy Butler-era, their lack of a Larry O’Brien Trophy has prevented this iteration from being deemed an unequivocal success. 

And it may never.

The Heat are currently experiencing untimely struggles and with Butler’s championship window shrinking, this era could end without an NBA championship.  

The fix? 

At least for 2024, it could be Kevin Love returning from a heel injury this Friday and lifting Miami’s lowly offense. What’s more, by becoming a pivotal piece in a desperately needed championship run, Love will gain a platform to help strengthen his fight to end the stigma surrounding mental health. 

“Sharing what you’re going through could be the most important thing you do,” Love said, per his Kevin Love Fund website, “It was for me.” 

Since opening up about his battles with depression and anxiety in his 2018 Players Tribune piece –  “Everyone Is Going Through Something” Love has become a face of the mental health movement. 

His Kevin Love Fund – an organization which provides tools for both mental and physical health – started an education curriculum that’s still being used today. Earlier this month, it announced that it’s “partnering with the Ohio School Safety Center to share our mental health curriculum with the students, staff and the school safety community all over the state.” 

This week, the Kevin Love Fund partnered with the Miami Heat to host 40 students from MAST Academy for a Mental Health Awareness Event at Kaseya Center. Attendees were treated to an exclusive early screening of the animated short film "The Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story." 

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But efforts like this one in recent years haven’t received as much publicity because of his on-the-court struggles. Such is the life of athletes who double as mental health advocates. 

Just two days before signing with the Heat on Feb. 20, 2023, Love was waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers after a $27.4 million buy-out. With plateauing numbers, little upside and a roster bolstered with young talent, Love fell out of the rotation and ended his Cavaliers career with eight-straight DNP-CDs.

Though he shifted the trajectory of his career in the 305 last season, the Heat’s inability to win the NBA Finals and his overall performance weren’t enough to help his movement gain traction needed to become front of mind. 

But this year, with the Heat’s offense in need of his three-point shooting, that all could change. 

Although Love’s averaging less than 18 minutes per game this year, his importance to the Heat’s title aspirations have become apparent over the course of his 14 missed games.

The Heat are 2-7 against playoff teams in that stretch and the two wins came against the Donovan Mitchell-less Cleveland Cavaliers. The lowlights of this stretch may have occurred last Friday and Monday when Heat were walloped by the Pelicans and Warriors, respectively, at the Kaseya Center. 

Furthermore, the Heat’s offense has been held to 100 points or less in 43% of the 14 games Love has missed. Before Love missed his first game on Feb. 29, the Heat failed to score 100 points or less in 21% of the 58 games before then. 

The decreased point totals and increased losses are a result of the team needing Love’s production from three. He averaged a 40% clip from beyond the arc in his last 10 games and the Heat were 8-2 in that stretch. 

With no Love to worry about, opponents have dismantled the Heat’s interior attack on offense by dispensing zones. The problem, however, is that the remedy to this – three-point shooting – has been lacking. In the eight losses endured since Love’s been out, the Heat have shot 40% or better just once. 

Not one to settle for threes, Butler has struggled to adapt, failing to eclipse 24 points in six of the eight Love-less losses he’s played in. Butler won’t notch three straight games with 25 or more points in March since 2019 (an exception for the COVID-19 shortened season). 

Making matters worse, Heat power forward Nikola Jovic has shot 35.4% from three this month and is 8-for-28 (29.6%) from three in the seven Love-less losses he’s played in.

Sure, these struggles from deep are also a byproduct of the absence of Duncan Robinson (back) and Tyler Herro (foot). But with Herro’s return date remaining murky, there’s more pressure on Love to help fix these offensive woes upon his arrival. A championship may hinge upon it. 

Love may be averaging nine points per game this year, but if anyone is doubting his ability to help Miami in a playoff push, then they should reflect on last year. 

After joining the Miami Heat on Feb. 20, Love was immediately inserted into the rotation and helped propel Miami to its historic playoff run. The Heat were 30 points better when he was on the floor.

Come playoff time, his 15-point, 12-rebound double-double in Game 5 of the first round helped the Heat clinch a historic upset over the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks. In limited roles in the Eastern Conference finals and NBA Finals, he shot 55.6% and 40% from three, respectively. 

Love’s late-season efforts helped him sign a two-year $7.86 million contract with Miami, which includes a 2024-25 player option. Through it all Love shifted the course of a career that was trending toward irrelevancy. 

By continuing this upswing, and leading Miami to a championship, producers at big media outlets will have no choice but to extend invites. This new chapter will only strengthen his mission and further illustrate the benefits of seeking help.

It worked once. Surely, it will work again. 

Which brings us to Madelyn Pasqulalone, a girl from Ohio who suffered “10,12 panic attacks a day,” resulting in her father Bradley quitting his job to “take care of her full time,” according to SB Nation. 

Then, one day, Madelyn saw Love share his story on SportsCenter, turned to her dad and said “‘He has what I have,’” Bradley recalled, later adding. “Something clicked.” 

Over time, Madelyn got the treatment she needed and her “10,12 panic attacks a day” plummeted to “one or two a year.” Madelyn and Love later shared a powerful embrace courtside in Cleveland after he learned of her story.

Therein lies why Love must return and become a vital cog in the Heat’s 2024 championship run. The more exposure he receives, the greater the chance more stories like Madelyn’s can occur. 

After all, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one in four U.S. citizens suffer from anxiety.

“He’s a great basketball player, but what he did here is the real legacy. It won’t hang in the rafters, but it’s the kind of thing that lives on,” Madelyn’s father said.