NEW YORK — Between the 15th and 16th picks in Thursday night’s draft came a very special selection by the NBA.
Commissioner Adam Silver announced at that point that the NBA would let Isaiah Austin fulfill the dream of every young player, making him a ceremonial pick.
Just over a week ago, the sophomore center from Baylor was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the heart. It ended his playing career.
The illness was discovered during a physical for the draft.
From CBS Sports:
“The NBA selects: Isaiah Austin,” Silver said.
Thousands were already on their feet, giving Austin an ovation. The slender 7-footer donned a royal-blue NBA lid, dipped his head into his massive right palm for a few seconds, then made his startled way up to the stage. He was crying, and Silver almost was, too. Andrew Wiggins’ mother walked right to Isaiah’s and embraced her in a huge hug. Austin deserved that moment; it was an accomplishment, a climactic achievement that only six days ago he was hoping to experience.
But Austin didn’t have a remote clue it would or could be like this.
Whereas all other greetings between player and commissioner Thursday night inaugurated NBA careers, Austin’s handshake with Silver signaled the end of his basketball-playing life. He has been diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a connective-tissue disorder that went unrecognized all Austin’s life and very well could have killed him. Some of his cells aren’t fully developed. He has stretch marks across his body because of it. Austin’s aorta has been growing wider in the past two years. If it continues to expand, open-heart surgery will be mandatory. The disease has no cure, but the immediate cessation of aggressive athletic activity gives Austin a better chance at living a long life. This devastating development wasn’t even known a week before the draft.
Instead of focusing on the setbacks sure to come, Isaiah Austin has vowed to make his fight against the syndrome a positive experience and not an excuse to just exit the stage, never to return. He has created a “Dream Again” campaign and launched a website where he is selling t-shirts in support of the Marfan Foundation. Austin wants to take the spotlight he has been afforded and use it to further educate the public about his condition. The NBA’s kind and classy gesture will only help Isaiah Austin accomplish his goal.