Inside Kevin Love’s Monumental Offseason of World Travel and Life Lessons
NEW YORK CITY -- If there’s any basketball player who can claim to be a modern-day Renaissance man, it’s Kevin Love. He has played in five All-Star Games, won the unlikeliest of NBA championships with the Cleveland Cavaliers, taken home a gold medal from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as a member of USA Basketball, collaborated with different fashion brands and become the face of mental health awareness in professional sports.
But Kevin’s bucket list is far from finished. This past summer, if you followed his Instagram, you saw that he indulged his wanderlust by way of an epic vacation tour across North America and a trip to a health spa in Thailand with his girlfriend, model Kate Bock, and (occasionally) their Vizsla puppy, Vestry.
As much as Kevin did to “win” the summer of 2019, he also took time to maintain his health and prepare his body for his 12th NBA season by working out with his trainer, Mike Guadango, and keeping up with physical therapist and European osteopath Fabrice Gautier. Before returning to Cleveland for Cavs training camp, Kevin welcomed CloseUp360 into his offseason residence in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood to discuss his summer of a lifetime and the different ways it’s changed his life.
What follows is his recap, in Kevin’s own words, edited for clarity and length.
Kevin Love lives in New York City during the offseason, but traveled all over the U.S. and Thailand this summer. (Griffin Harrington)
LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY, PREPARING TO TRAVEL
When I was 19, I wrote down a list of certain things that I wanted to have accomplished by 25 or 30. It's a long list, but stuff as small as like taking my dog off-leash to Central Park to winning another NBA championship. When I was 19, I either wanted to outright own a house in LA or have an apartment in New York City. I was 29 years old and I closed on this apartment, moved in at 30 and got to check one off the list. I'm a big checklist guy. It's a good change in pace from being in LA for 11 summers, and now moving to New York and wanting to travel overseas.
I did a lot of research on traveling. I feel like the offseason comes so fast and then, in the blink of an eye, it's September. I always want to get the really distant trips out of the way. I'm a mountain person, so I find different ways to navigate that. And once you kind of put it out there that you want to travel, whether it be on social media or start talking to certain people, they'll kind of guide you in what to do and send you different experiences.
So what I do is, I always put away like 90 minutes to two hours in the morning to do something, and then I find that experience what I'm going to do every day. So I kind of chase the game and chase my core competencies, and then I go out there and just explore it.
Early on, the trips are planned. I kind of have a short list of places I want to knock off and places I want to go. Then, if I free up time throughout the summer, I need a little break away from basketball to just do cardio and maybe some body work, then I'll go to like southern Utah or another mountain town or somewhere in the U.S. where people wouldn't necessarily go. Or something that's not necessarily at the top of their list, but we find stuff to do no matter what.
I got asked yesterday, “What was the highlight of the summer?” I think it's doing stuff way out of your comfort zone and stuff that reminds you that you're alive. Like, I'd always come back from certain things and say, “Wow, that was a first. That was crazy. I need a great bottle of wine.” Or, like, “That was so mentally liberating or stimulating or something that I'd always wanted to do, like a bucket list type thing.” And then I come back after and maybe text Fabrice and say, “What's a bottle of wine I should have?”
Kevin works on his body with physical therapist and European osteopath Fabrice Gautier. (Griffin Harrington)
I ended up going to Thailand right away after the season. Thailand was amazing. The people are incredible. The food is some of the best food in the world, and then just the culture. We got to play full-on tourists. And then, at the same time, we got to just relax and chill.
So we went to the Amanpuri out there and they had just reinvigorated their spa. They brought basically their spa director who was, I believe, from Tokyo, Japan. He re-did the whole thing into a complete health spa with doctors and nurses. They can take your blood work. They can take you on a full health tour for five, seven, 10 or 14 days. So we were really just doing something for our body every day, working out then eating, taking in the sights, going to the street markets, and being just a regular person and trying to find balance in the trip.
The elephant sanctuary was very eye-opening because you don't realize how poorly these sacred animals are treated. I mean, I had no idea. You go there and they're all female elephants. You get to see them be rehabilitated, brought back in their natural habitat and fed well. And also the coolest thing I saw there was a lot like what we do. If an elephant has a weight-bearing injury on her legs, they put her in the water and have her work out in the water and eat in the water. When you have that type of mass on you, it's almost impossible to fix it or cure it or heal a bone or ligament. So putting them in the water really, really helps them because they wouldn't otherwise know to do that.
You start realizing and seeing all these animals being basically show ponies, and used in the circus to capitalize and make money wherever they are in the world, but particularly in Thailand. There are a lot of terrible things happening to these animals, who are super kind and smart and have been around forever. It's sad to see.
There was an example… You see the trunk and it's painting on this beautiful canvas. Literally, it's sitting there and all you're seeing is this elephant that is painting, but you're not seeing on the other side that they're taking a really thick needle and jabbing their ear, in order to make them do that. And I was just, like, “It's the stuff you don't see behind the scenes, right?” It's not like breaking a horse. They're causing it to submit, but in a very violent way in order to break them and make them timid. They're just not in their natural habitat. So that was an interesting one.
HARVARD UNIVERSITY, CAMBRIDGE
I'd always wanted to go to Harvard's The Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports class. I had known about the class for a long time, for about five or six years, and actually got the opportunity to go. Each year we had made the Finals, but the course is in late May, so I was never able to go because we played until mid June. So this was the first year that I was able to make it. So I talked to Anita Elberse, who runs the course—she's an absolute rock star—and I signed up and I went.
It was really cool to be in a class setting. I went to UCLA for business, but going to Harvard and going to class in their business school was special. It was four days, and we went over several case studies. It was really interesting. One was on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and FC Barcelona, Disney and their tentpole strategy, Spotify and Facebook for the first 10 years. It was an amazing class and we ended up learning a lot on what makes certain things work, and taking the risks. But also, it was cool to just connect with a lot of people from different walks of life and in different company. Plus, I got to leave with some Harvard swag, which I think everybody does.
ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL, COLORADO
Aspen Ideas. So DeMar DeRozan was there. We got to talk about a range of topics, but one was “Everybody's Going Through Something,” from the article I had written for The Players’ Tribune. So DeMar was sitting with me and I actually got to speak with him and speak about everything that he had done for me, whether he knows it or not. There's definitely an incredible connection there that, whether it's spoken or not, it's a brotherhood and it's special. I wouldn't be in this position now if it wasn't for DeMar. He opened the door for guys like myself to not only be part of the destigmatization, if you will, of everything surrounding mental health, but also continuing to pay it forward in a big way.
So while I think it's great that the NBA has done that, I think we're just scratching the surface on what can be accomplished—even outside of our sport and in other sports, but every walk of life because this is something that just doesn't discriminate. I just keep saying that. It affects each and every person, whether it's internally something that they've had forever and it's a chemical imbalance, or they're predisposed or externally. Everybody deals with grievances, loss of a family member or friend.
So I think it's important that we keep having these tough conversations. But we're in a sport that we have people at the top that are about or trying to be about the right things, and they're supporting us and also pushing us to have these conversations and talk about really important topics.
The most amazing thing about Portland, I believe, is that you have this incredible city, people, food, arts—all the way across the board. I feel like Portland is a very slept-on city, but also you have a mountain an hour away and you have an amazing Oregon coast about an hour away. So each are within 60 minutes to 90 minutes away and you can get there like that. That's how the Pacific Northwest is.
But I love the ocean. I think there's something very calm about it and you can reset yourself there. I've just always been more prone to visit and go toward the mountains. And this is in the summertime, too, because we're actually contractually obligated not to ski or snowboard, or do any of those extreme winter sports.
I think I've totally become that guy with my dog. It's such a funny relationship because Vestry is like a little human. And I would say that the most fun or cool thing was bringing her to the Cascade Mountains in British Columbia.
The glacier had melted to a point, so you could go glacier kayaking and the water is reflecting the mountains, it’s reflecting the glacier. And she was kind of in the kayaks, jumping in there. It's funny: she got close to the water where she would've gotten really cold, so I had to snatch her ass up. And that's where we have that photo of me holding their matching lifejackets just out of chance. But it was cool to see the dog in different elements and how she responded to that.
CANYON POINT, UTAH AND JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING
First of all, there's so much to do at Amangiri. You just have to go up front and ask, “Hey, what can you do?” and know the area this much. And if you want to stay there and just have a staycation, it's incredible. The food, too, was great and they had a great wine selection. So it's really what you want to make it. And a lot of my friends say, “We didn't love it.” But we loved the spa, we loved staying there. We got to Antelope Canyon really early when the light was just creeping in.
Riding in a hot air balloon was… different. A lot of people like to call them deathtraps. You hear “hot air balloon,” and I think everybody thinks of like the two times a year that people have a bad experience, instead of how cool it can be.
So one was in Southern Utah, and you have the red rocks and look into the slot canyons. So you kind of have a feel for what's down there. A lot of the architecture is built out of the rock. And then you kind of get to see some of the Native Americans’ land, and it's really cool to see that. It’s very silent up there, but one thing I always do is say, “Today is not the day I die.”
And also the second time, the time in Jackson Hole, the lift where the basket was really low, I had to stay holding on the entire time because if I backed up and my mind slipped for a second, I could have had a 700, 800-foot drop—which, if I did, I’m guessing I wouldn’t be here.
But I would say 100 percent go. Utah might've been our best trip of the whole summer.
NEW YORK FASHION WEEK
I got into fashion from being obsessed with iconic movie stars, and then cinema and film. So like Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant. I was heavily influenced by that, as well as classic looks and Northwest fashion, where I'll throw on a hoodie, jeans, boots, flannel, beanie. And then it just transitioned into street style and picking apart different guys from the NBA—their style, as well as just being myself.
My favorite designer ever is Ralph Lauren. Just because I think if you're photographed in Ralph, whether it be now or in 30 years, you're looking at an image of yourself dressed in Ralph Lauren, whether it be a suit or everyday wear that is timeless. Like, you look back and think, Wow, that was a really nice suit or nice outfit put together and you won't be able to say, “Oh, that was from this era.” It's just kind of timeless.
Ralph and I ended up wearing essentially the same exact thing to the Ralph’s Club fashion show. That was one of the best photos ever, and it was unintentional. I had actually picked that jacket in May because I took a screenshot of it. I make vision boards and Pinterest pages and I've gotten really into photography, as you can see by my Instagram. So I screenshot and it said, “This is what I want” and we ended up wearing the same exact thing. The show was a dinner in the Wall Street area. They made it like a 1920s-themed supper club and Janelle Monáe performed. She was incredible—probably the best performance I've ever seen, especially in an intimate setting like that.
MAINTAINING MENTAL HEALTH WHILE TRAVELING
I try to keep my mind occupied in a healthy way. So I'm always reading, listening to music that I know soothes me. I think music can be incredibly nostalgic and it can put you back to a very happy place in your life, if that direct or that immediate moment is not the best circumstance in how you're feeling.
There's a great band called Hammock. It's all instrumentals, but it's actually what I listen to when I get work done or treatment or I'm working with Fabrice or massage therapists. I'm able to have music on that's super soothing because I believe it relaxes my body and my mind. They have a number of different albums. And in that genre, too, I want to say it's like mood music or like instrumental type of music. It's not something you'd have on in a spa. It's more kind of meditative music, and that's generally what I listen to when I want to calm down. It's funny: my playlist is called “Airplane Mode.” So I literally put my phone on airplane mode, put that music on and just zone out.
Another thing I always say, too, because I'm on this new journey, I always say, “Listen, I don't have all the answers. I'm just speaking from experience.” I'm really absorbing it and trying to learn. For somebody like me, I always say it's like a weighted vest. So you're trying to find ways to manage it and change your relationship with it. But it's always being open to the possibility and willingness to try different things that could help.
I definitely never thought I'd be in this position because I put it off for so long. I just felt like this is something that I'm going to just live with and get by every day, and have this constant feeling in the pit of my stomach, whether it be the anxiety or have these bouts of, four weeks or two months long, not wanting to come out of my room, depression cycles. I think it's just very important to talk about.
I wouldn't be here if I hadn't pressed send on that article for The Players’ Tribune. I wouldn't be here if there wasn't such a huge outreach and community. Admitting that you're struggling actually empowers you in a huge way. At least, I should say for me, I learned that. And just sharing my story and kind of admitting who I am and what I'm going through, it established a huge sense of community.
So I would say, whether you're able to say it publicly or able to just share it with somebody at arm’s distance, you have a big community at your back and there is a way to change the relationship with what you're dealing with, and it can be very, very powerful. And there is a lot of support and empathy out there. You just have to be willing to look yourself in the mirror and say, “Listen, I'm ready to deal with this.”
We won the title in 2016 and went to the Olympics in 2012. Talk about checklists. Those are things that I’ve wanted to do my entire life. But this is what people come up to me or have come up to me the most at any point in my career. I never thought I'd be here, but it just feels right to speak from experience and continue to learn and find out what makes sense.
Kevin launched the Kevin Love Fund in September 2018 to promote and raise awareness around mental health. (Griffin Harrington)
HELPING KIDS WITH THE KEVIN LOVE FUND
I would like to affect the most change in the younger demographic. We're seeing more and more kids now at an earlier age go to the hospital for thoughts of suicide and panic attacks. Where I grew up in Oregon, they have the second-highest suicide rate in America.
There's something huge in youth uprising that I think is very cool. You saw it in Parkland, Florida. So we have to really consider the mental health around not only all those kids, but the community and the parents and gun violence overall in America, as well as the shooter himself and his family, how that affects them. And then you have to consider, in Oregon, there was a group of kids that went to the state legislature and had a bill passed on kids being able to take mental health days, depending on how they’re feeling. So they can come back refreshed and feeling better and not fake sick.
At 31, Kevin has found a greater sense of balance and purpose in his life beyond basketball. (Griffin Harrington)
MAINTAINING BALANCE IN LIFE
I read a book on time management. The author's name is Laura Vanderkam and she talks about what successful people do before breakfast, what successful people do on the weekend, what successful people do at work. And then I think her first book was 168 Hours. That's how many hours you have in a week. She has an exercise where you make your list of a hundred dreams. It's like something as easy as “I want to go to the New York Public Library and pick five books and sit there and read.” Something silly like that all the way to “I want to create a New York Times bestseller” to “I want to take my dog off-leash to Central Park” or go to the French Open, visit Bordeaux and Burgundy when I'm out there. Like, major dreams and then stuff that's small, so your list ends up… like, I'm at 160 right now.
It's a fun exercise to do. You find small, short-term goals, and then long-term goals that I don't really put a deadline on some of them. So one of them was to go to the U.S. Open final. I did that this year. So I got to X that off the list. And there's some sense of accomplishment and that was a very leisurely, fun thing to do. It wasn't work, and yet it still felt like a dream had been crossed off. So that was very fun. Some of the things are very much work-related and some aren't.
I'm definitely traveling more. But actually, as far as time spent in the gym, I’m probably spending more time in the gym than in the past. It's just more balanced, but being specific to basketball and time in the gym, it's elasticity and trying to lengthen my career by doing all the right things for my body, and what it needs and listening to it. And then just getting on the floor and continue to refine everything basketball-wise. And then when I'm outside of basketball, I have many, many escapes now that I can turn to, depending on what the day entails.
I always had these interests, but I was so singularly focused. Now I’m living my life—not just for other people because I do believe, at the end of the day, you'll look back and not wish you had more money or wish you had more fame, or in some cases you wish you'd travel more. I think it's more you wish you would have put more time into your relationships. And in traveling, I've made so many great relationships with people from all over that I think will really make me happy later in life. I think that's where I have been able to find balance in most things.