Paul Pierce, Markelle Fultz & Kevin Love - we didn't see their mental wounds

We knew that Paul Pierce had been stabbed multiple times and survived. When Kevin Love abruptly left a game, and then left the team, we could only speculate as to why. The videos of Markelle Fultz's shooting woes were almost humorous, but his struggles were definitely not. We found out later that nothing was what it appeared to be.

After the Celtics Captain was stabbed 11 times on September 25, 2000, the stab wounds were graphic. We saw them in photos. What we missed where the mental scars that lasted years. ESPN's Jackie MacMullan, as always, tells it best:

One of the knife wounds was seven inches deep, just inches from his heart. The face of the Celtics franchise stunned everyone by recovering in time to play all 82 games that season. As everyone marveled at his speedy physical recovery, Pierce privately grappled with the mental scars of the incident, which took years to heal.

For the first time, Pierce discusses the debilitating bout of depression that left him so unglued that he ordered a 24-hour-a-day police detail outside his home in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

"I was stabbed 11 times," Pierce tells ESPN. "I felt like I was trapped in a box. I couldn't go nowhere. "I battled depression for a year. The only thing that saved me was basketball."

Long after he was released from the hospital, Pierce remained nervous, jittery, anxious. He couldn't sleep. The Celtics urged him to seek counseling, but he waved them off. "I thought, 'I can do this myself,'" Pierce recalls. "I didn't want anybody else in my business."

But as the weeks dragged on, moving around in public spaces became almost unbearable for Pierce. The trauma of the event had stripped him of his confidence. His anxiety spiked while dining at Morton's restaurant in Boston just a few months after the stabbing, when the manager approached him with a house phone and said a friend was insistent on speaking with Pierce. He picked up the receiver, and a menacing voice sneered, "I'm going to kill you."

"So now I'm really paranoid," Pierce says. "I don't want to go anywhere. The police sat in the front of my house for months. I was a mess.

"I think that's the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn't work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that's where I felt safe. I didn't want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me."

"I would tell everyone to get the help they need. My depression was bad -- really bad. I never want to feel that way again."

It took a while for Kevin Love to explain his rapid departure from a game against the Atlanta Hawks, but he gave this description of the happening to MacMullan:

In a subsequent interview with ESPN this past Wednesday in Los Angeles, Love provided more details about that panic attack. After he ran from room to room in a total panic, he says, he finally collapsed on the floor of the locker room.

"My heart was jumping out of my chest," Love says. "I couldn't get any air to my lungs. I was trying to clear my throat by sticking my hand down my throat.

"It was terrifying. I thought I was having a heart attack. I was very scared. I really felt like I was going to die in that moment."

It turns out that Love was having a full-blown panic attack that seemingly came out of nowhere. I can acknowledge that the incident may have been the most frightening occurrence of his life. With Markelle Fultz, we never totally knew whether his badly-damaged shot was the result of injury or a psychological issue. Fultz's Instagram may give a clue (per ESPN's Jackie MacMullan):

Was it physical? Mental? A combination of both? Fultz's mindset became clearer after he posted this on Instagram in July: "Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are not a sign of weakness. They are signs of having tried to remain strong for so long. 1 in 3 of us go through depression, anxiety or panic attacks at least once in our lifetime. Would you share this on your wall for at least one day? Most people won't. To those who do -- thanks for sharing the support. Let those who struggle know they are not alone."

I very often tell people that nothing is ever what it appears to be. The exact causes of panic and anxiety disorders are elusive. But trying to take complete control over your life while living in a world in which you have little control over anything may be one possibility. As Kevin told MacMullan:

"I'm a perfectionist, so I'm hard on myself," he says. "I don't pass the mirror test."

We see these individuals on the court as superstars, or in Markelle's case, a potential future star. We think of them as being immune to the psychological maladies that afflict the common man. That needs to change.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC and

Photos via Youtube