Jalen Moore puts NBA on hold as he deals with anxiety

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LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Imagine working towards a dream your entire life, only to turn that dream down when it comes true.

That is what happened to former Sky View High and Utah State star Jalen Moore, who had to say no to an NBA contract from the Milwaukee Bucks because he was suffering from anxiety.

When Moore first got the 2-way offer last summer to play with both the Bucks and the Wisconsin Herd of the G-League, he was excited.

“Me and my family were really happy,” Moore said. “Obviously, that’s what you work for as a kid.”

After playing in the Summer League with the Bucks in Las Vegas, Jalen started to feel more and more uneasy. He’d have full blown panic attacks on airplanes.

“Every time I went there, it would get harder for me to sleep, harder to me to eat, harder for me to even understand what was going on,” Moore said. “I wouldn’t eat, so I’d get headaches, and I wouldn’t know what was happening. And then it was just a downward spiral. Everything just kept getting worse. I’d get to a point where the only thing I could do to stop thinking was pace back and forth in my room, or look in the mirror and try to figure out what am I really doing. Why do I feel like this?”

Not knowing what was happening to him, Moore turned to the internet for answers and looked up the symptoms for anxiety.

“All these kings, can’t eat, stress headaches, nervous, over-thinking is a big thing,” he said. “It listed all the different types of anxiety. There was flying, separation anxiety, just a bunch of different kings. Sounds to me like I’ve got a little bit of everything.”

Moore knew deep down he just could not accept Milwaukee’s offer. But before Jalen told the Bucks he wasn’t coming, he had to tell his family. His mom, dad and brother had been there every step of the way for 22 years. But when he realized he wasn’t going to achieve his ultimate dream, Jalen felt like he was letting them down. 

“How am I going to tell me dad, who played in the NBA,” he said. “How am I going to tell my brother, who wishes he could play in my same situation. I started crying, and my mom started crying. My mom was like, are you sure because this is a big opportunity. I was 100 percent sure that I can’t do this right now.”

Being extremely recognizable in Logan, Moore didn’t even want to go outside. He knew there was a stigma associated with mental health issues. But he quickly found out he wasn’t alone.

“I had people from Sky View and people I didn’t even know in college comment and talk to me about it,” Moore said. “They told me, hey, I’ve had the same situation. The biggest thing is telling people, your friends, and talk to them about it. That was a big thing with me was talk about it, and it makes you feel better about it than being on your own.”

Over 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety. Moore is seeing a sports psychologist and hopes to one day get another chance at the NBA. There is a good chance Moore could play in the upcoming Summer League with the Utah Jazz.

Moore hopes his story will inspire others to talk about mental health issues more openly.

“I think there are a lot of people like me that don’t say anything, he said. “When more people talk about it, and it becomes more regular and that it happens to people, I think people will be more understanding about it.”

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