A Career Ending Diagnosis
Most of us will never know the thrill of playing a sport at the highest collegiate level and then subsequently hearing our named called at the draft. All of that hard work and hours spent perfecting our game, playing sick, injured, rushing home after practice to get in some study time before a big test the next morning. Catching flights, riding buses, missing family vacations and holidays because there was a tournament or more practice. It was all worth it to Baylor’s 7′ 1″ center Isaiah Austin because there was the dream keeping him motivated. He wasn’t the best player in college basketball, but the former Arlington Grace Prep star was expected to be taken in the first round of this week’s NBA draft. That meant he would not only fulfill his dream of playing in the pros, but he was also guaranteed 0f a very substantial contract. Every school boy’s dream.
On Sunday his mother drove all night from Kansas to be with her son in Dallas. Not to celebrate his new life but to break the news to him. Austin underwent a physical, like all other prospects, at the NBA combine. His EKG revealed an abnormality. After further tests doctors diagnosed Austin with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. The strong recommendation was that Austin stop playing basketball immediately and permanently. A number of athletes have died on the court from Marfan Syndrome including former U.S. Olympic volleyball star Flo Hyman. “They said I wouldn’t be able to play basketball anymore at a competitive level,” Austin told ESPN‘s Holly Rowe. “They found the gene in my blood sample. They told me that my arteries in my heart are enlarged and that if I overwork myself and push too hard that my heart could rupture. The draft is four days away, and I had a dream that my name was going to be called.” Austin then went on to show his real character, first thinking of all of those who had helped him to this point and how he might be letting them down. He told them he was sorry that they wouldn’t be able to watch him play in the NBA, but went on to say this wasn’t the end, just a new beginning.
How many 20-year-olds have the maturity and strength to say something like that? Not me when I was 20, that’s for sure. I would have been pissed off, at the doctors, at my parents for the bad genes – even God for getting me this far and this close only to take it all away. Austin, who overcame a detached retina that caused blindness in his right eye when he was 16, didn’t roll himself in self pity. Instead he had this to say on Twitter; I would love to thank EVERYONE who has reached out to me. Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT! Baylor coach Scott Drew, who was there with Austin’s mother to give him the bad news said how proud of Isaiah he was and that he hoped he would finish his degree at Baylor and join the basketball coaching staff.
Maybe it wasn’t in God’s plan for Isaiah to play professional basketball, and maybe with his character and unselfishness he will go into coaching and become a great one. Or maybe he’ll sell insurance or be a high school history teacher. Whatever it is, I’m betting he’ll be successful and everyone will admire him. What more could anyone want.