Kevin Love is a five-time NBA all-star forward, a former champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a nephew to a founding member of the Beach Boys, a philanthropist, and mental health advocate. Oh, and he’s still deciding if LeBron James has an invitation to his wedding after getting posterized by his former teammate recently.
The 33-year is also an emerging icon in the dog-lovers universe. First, he stopped traffic to rescue a service animal victim of a hit-and-run. Now he and his Vizsla, Vestry, are endorsing a new line of Mike Bone dog biscuits. Busy guy.
PlayUSA caught up with Love in between all the basketballs he has in the air.
Kevin Love on the spread of legal sports betting around NBA markets
Question: How has legal sports betting changed your job on a daily basis?
KEVIN LOVE: I think the biggest change that I’ve seen is it’s almost to a point now where it’s like fantasy sports. You used to get so many different fans involved in fan interaction through fantasy sports, which you still get.
But now, it’s even another layer on top of that – for better or for worse – because there’ll be some times when I’m looking at my direct messages … and somebody will say, ‘Hey, the parlay … you won me this money.’ I’m just like, ‘okay, whatever.’
And then there’ll be other people, ‘Hey, I can’t pay my rent for the month. Thanks … asshole.’ There’s certain stuff like that. But I think what I love about it is, it brings more fan interaction to the game.
We have more fans than we otherwise would have had. So more people that have their eyes on basketball, I think, definitely the better.
I always ask the spreads on certain games and stuff like that. There’s a lot to it that I don’t fully grasp or understand. But it really has brought a whole other layer to the game and to sports that we wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
And I think for major sports leagues to okay a lot of it and states, a lot of places, to okay it is pretty cool to see.
Can those fan interactions get testy considering how close spectators are to basketball players?
KL: It’s something that’s not lost on me, [no matter] how much heaviness or seriousness there is to that. … I don’t condone drinking and driving. I don’t condone putting your family’s livelihood at risk because you’re betting on something.
But I do think there’s a healthy side to all of it. It’s like, call Uber. It’s like, okay, only bet as much as you’re willing to do. Because it’s a similar thing in.
I definitely don’t want to be hated because I made under two and a half 3s in a game when I was just off that night. It’s a lot more easier to wrap my head around and grasp when it happens to just be fantasy basketball.
I do think that there’s a major value-added on [sports betting’s] own. I think a lot of people see that. And it’s a reason we’re here talking about it now.
Do you think active athletes (like Connor McDavid) should endorse sportsbooks?
KL: I actually didn’t know that [NHL and MLB players could]. It’s definitely interesting. I think that it’s almost like with NFTs. You get paid off of a company that is then selling them, and then somebody else has ownership in what they are then selling.
But I think that, again, there’s definitely a fine line within it. There’s good and bad. There’s a right and wrong way to do it. But I guess with the sportsbooks and endorsing it, I just have to further understand that. Because I didn’t know that.
NBA players are definitely going to want this in the next CBA, right?
KL: There’s definitely a lot to unpack. But it seems like there’s always going to be that, like, connotation, right? That it’s negative all the time. But again, I don’t think that it necessarily has to be because you want fan participation. You want fan interaction.
And it’s – at least for the people that write the checks – it’s money for your league. But at the same time, I think you have to build – within the NBA, any sport – you have to build it from the fan perspective out. We try to play for our fans. So I think there, again, there’s a healthy side to it all.
Love and dog, Vestry, become faces of Milk Bone birthday cake treats
How did you come to be a dog biscuit spokesperson?
KL: I think just with Milk Bone, their celebration of dogs and loving on dogs made it very synergistic and made it a great fit to work together because our dog, our Vizsla, loves the product as well.
She’s had the birthday cake biscuit that they just launched and loves it. So we celebrate our dogs. We celebrate Vestry every chance that we get and love her up.
How does a dog get a taste for birthday cake?
KL: I don’t know. We’re just happy it has the proper vitamins and minerals, and she loves it.
She can sniff it out, and she loves it, keeps coming back to it. She’s going to let us know. She’s a very, very vocal dog. She knows how to get what she wants.
Didn’t you help save someone’s dog recently?
KL: It’s traumatic. You never want to see a dog in pain or compromised like that on the side of the road. I thought it was just hit and left for dead. I pulled out of our facility and just pulled my car off, blocked the traffic, put my hazards on whatever. And I was just waving the gentleman right there to come out and just saw the dog in pain.
At first, I didn’t know if it was dead or if it was going to live, or what the deal was going to be.
Man, I can’t get that out of my head. It really, really struck me to my core, but he was able to get the dog, take the dog to the emergency vet. It had a number of broken ribs, lacerations, lost blood, had bruised eyes. But somebody reached out to me from his family and said thanks for blocking traffic because of where they are.
It was on a really busy highway, and the cars would’ve kept coming on the corner. It probably would’ve gotten run over again. The first thing that hit the dog probably didn’t see it when it first happened, But I think it was definitely a hit-and-run-type situation. So that broke my heart even more.
But thankfully, the dog recovered. And it’s all good now, and even so, better it’s going to make a full recovery, and it is a therapy dog for [the owner]. So that makes me feel better about the situation. It was not something that you ever wanna see.
Kevin Love on growing awareness of mental health in pro sports, society
How has the sensitivity about mental health improved since you spoke up in 2017?
KL: It’s all relative to each person’s individual experience. Nobody goes through it alone. But a lot of people compartmentalize it. They hide it. They live in the shadows. So, I think just from 2017 to now and myself sharing my story, then you have Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka.
I wouldn’t be here talking about it if it weren’t for DeMar DeRozan, Dak Prescott. I mean, the list goes on and on of athletes who have spoken out about and spoken up about their mental health, too, in a lot of ways to help pay it forward.
You have all shapes and sizes, different demographics, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, whatever it may be, all these different people speaking up and talking about it. I think it’s just educating people in a way that wouldn’t otherwise have happened.
And on top of that, you have the pandemic. You have the war now. You have the election. We have all the social injustice. Everything on top of that has, I think, opened up for some really healthy conversations surrounding the topic. So I’m just hoping that that continues.
Kevin Love on his future in NBA and beyond
What will you be doing in 15 years?
KL: I’m definitely on the other side of the hill in my career, being in year 14, coming up at the end of year 14 here. I still want to, on the philanthropic side, be working with my fund and having grown it to a place where we can have some substantial impact.
What exactly does that look like? I don’t know. And I imagine we’ll take some pivots. We’ll learn from people. We already are partnered with a ton of people that have been there, done that before us.
You can’t put a number on or understand the reach of impact that you can have by changing people’s lives. There’s just such a domino and ripple effect within changing one person’s life within a family, within a community, within the greater good.
I truly believe that these conversations, and even you asking the questions, these conversations are meaningful and make people feel like they’re part of something greater than themselves, and still hope in people. I feel like that’s what we need right now. We could stand to all be more empathetic and not withhold compassion.
And I do feel like having exposed my struggles at this level it’s definitely made me stronger in both of those categories.
So again, in 10 or 15 years, as far as that side of things, just involved in really great things with my fund and outside of that, maybe working in basketball and, working in different businesses, but definitely, the primary focus will be continuing with my fund.