Doctors killed Isaiah Austin’s basketball career last week by diagnosing him with Marfan syndrome. They also likely saved the Baylor star’s life.
Last night at the NBA Draft, league commissioner Adam Silver, in a moment that overwhelmed the emotions, recognized Austin despite the player’s announcement that his condition precluded him from playing in the NBA. “You may have heard about Isaiah,” Silver explained midway through the first round. “He is one of the nation’s best collegiate players, and was expected to be picked here tonight before the discovery just a few days ago that he had a genetic disorder called Marfan syndrome and he is no longer able to play competitive basketball. Like the other young men here tonight, Isaiah committed himself through endless hard work and dedication to a potential career as a professional basketball player and we wanted to make sure he fulfilled at least this part of this dream.”
The 7’1” center averaged 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks this past season for the Baylor Bears. But basketball could accelerate Austin’s oft-fatal condition, so he chose life over millions. “When there is underlying aortic enlargement and situations occur in which blood pressure rises very high, the inner lining of the aorta tears,” Yale’s John Elefteriades told Scientific American. “This is known as an aortic dissection, and the layers of the lining peel apart. If you have an aneurysm, it won’t usually rupture unless the blood pressure rises very high. That’s the fear with these athletes–that under physical duress, their blood pressure will rise and their enlarged aorta will tear.”
The disease results in unusually tall and thin people–the basketball demographic–and weakens joints, bones, intestines, and other parts of the body. Austin has already lost an eye.
Unfortunately, the condition that caused the length that put Austin in the position to fulfill an NBA dream killed that dream. But, if for a few moments, Adam Silver enabled Austin to live part of that dream and hear his name called, put on a cap with a logo, and walk to the podium to the cheers of the crowd. “It gives me great pleasure to say, that with the next pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the NBA selects Isaiah Austin out of Baylor University.”