College Basketball star, Isaiah Austin, endeavored to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA as he anxiously awaited the NBA draft this Thursday. As a projected first-round pick, he recently left the Baylor Bears early to attend the highly-suspenseful NBA draft this week; however, in a dramatic turn of events, Austin will have to find another means to occupy his Thursday night.
The 7’1'’ center found success during his sophomore year for a Baylor team that reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament where he averaged 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, despite his partial blindness. According to CBS News, the eye was impaired when a previous injury intensified as Austin performed a routine dunk prior to a middle school game. Nevertheless, Isaiah Austin would overcome several pangs of emotional distress after numerous procedures failed to repair his detached retina.
"I felt like quitting, I felt like giving up," Austin told CBS News in March. "I was scared that college coaches weren't going to recruit me if they found out."
Austin didn't let circumstantial misfortune get the best of him, however, and he persisted in his regular practice routines to maintain his basketball prowess. By the time he finished his High School career, Austin was ranked a top-five player in the nation. All of Isaiah Austin’s dreams seemed to be fulfilling smoothly. That is, up until a few days before the draft, when Austin's aspirations to play professional basketball were devastated. He was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome.
CBS News stated that, "According to the Mayo Clinic, complications from Marfan syndrome can weaken the aorta, the artery that supplies blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Some symptoms can be treated with medication, but severe cases can be life-threatening.”
Austin held back blubbering tears as he succinctly told ESPN,
"They told me that my arteries in my heart are enlarged and that if I overwork myself or push too hard that my heart could rupture." He continued by saying, "the draft is four days away and I had a dream that my name was going to be called.”
This unforeseen career-threatening affliction somewhat mirrors the demoralizing Achilles injury that Kobe Bryant experienced last year. Bryant was in the midst of carrying a dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers team to the playoffs when he ruptured his Achilles heel with merely four games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s just [expletive] luck,” Bryant, who was also fighting back tears, said after the game. “I was pissed and sad [walking off the court], we worked really hard to get to this point. I was pissed.”
The calamitous trials that athletes experience, known as injuries, have the tendency to sneak up on anyone, and they serve as prime reminders that no one is invincible. In a single moment, all the talent and hard work that a person has honed, or dedicated his or her life for, can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. Many professional athletes have been blessed with durability and endurance, and they take their sustained success for granted. That's why fans appreciate the players who never settle for mediocrity, those who strive to maximize their fullest potential, and those who, as Allen Iverson famously quoted, "play every game like it's [his or her] last."
Thanks in large part to his resolve, diligence, and optimistic perspective, Bryant, in a recent interview in Brazil, revealed that he's "100 percent" for next season.
"What's life without a few challenges," Bryant uttered in the same interview. "You've got to have a few challenges. This summer I'm training really hard."
Austin's challenge may seem insurmountable, but his story is sure to inspire athletes and people across the globe.
"My mom always tells me that nobody is going to remember you for the great basketball player you are, but they will remember you for the character you have off the court and for all the lives you changed," Austin told CBS News in March.
Isaiah Austin will attend Thursday's NBA Draft as an honorary guest, even though his professional playing career is over. As a testament to his character and morale, Austin, who reportedly may return to Baylor to get his degree and join the coaching staff, has expressed optimism for his future, claiming that, "It's not the end, it's only the beginning."