Isaiah Austin is a name many sports fans may be unfamiliar with. In 2014 that may have been a different story. Austin played basketball at Baylor. Standing 7’1”, with surprising agility, he seemed a sure pick for the NBA. A diagnosis with Marfan syndrome, however, prematurely ended his career. Though Austin never got to play in the NBA, he hasn’t stopped pursuing his dream of being a professional athlete. He now boasts impressive stats playing basketball in China, and has hopes to return as a player to the NBA. Keep reading to learn more, or follow the original story here for further details.
What is Marfan Syndrome?
Marfan syndrome is an inherited disorder which affects the body’s connective tissues. The most commonly affected areas of the body include the heart, eyes, blood vessels, and bones. Marfan syndrome is caused by a defective gene which is normally responsible for producing the elasticity and strength of connective tissues. Damage to the aorta is one of the biggest risks associated with Marfan syndrome.
A Star in Exile
Austin is now 24. In an interview with Bleacher Report he describes his experiences playing in China. He calls from a region called Guangxi and describes how no one in the league seems capable of checking him. In his second season he’s averaged about 35 points each game. His shooting record is impressive, attempting seven three point shots per game, and a general shot success of 53%.
Perhaps most impressive, however, is that despite the danger of his condition, Austin continues to play hard. One risk of Marfan syndrome is an enlargement of the aorta. This makes it more likely to tear during stress. Though this would be fatal, Austin received clearance from a doctor and continue to push forward. Sometimes he plays the entire duration of a game – all 48 minutes straight.
Ready for a Comeback?
With all the hard work and points under his belt, Austin seeks to return to the NBA. Some question whether he can compete at that level. The Chinese leagues are not known to have as many strong defensive players. Several teams interest in Austin if the NBA agrees to clear him medically. Therein lies the problem.
Austin’s doctors report he only has a mild case of Marfan syndrome. The enlargement of his aorta, they say, has only been marginal. Austin and his doctors don’t appear to view it as a major issue. The NBA, however, performs its own tests and confirms that Austin has Marfan syndrome. In any degree, this makes their decision clear. The NBA follows the guidelines set forth by the American College of Cardiology. This states that no one with Marfan syndrome should be involved in high intensity contact sports. The league is simply not willing to participate in risk taking when it could involve the death of a player.
The future for Austin remains unclear. Perhaps at some point the NBA will clear him and he will return to the States to live out the dream of his childhood. Either way, Austin has accomplished an incredible amount despite being told he would not be able to.