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Former Baylor Star Isaiah Austin, Diagnosed with Rare Genetic Disorder Before 2014 NBA Draft, Is Cleared to Play Again

Diagnosed with Marfan syndrome two years ago, it looked like he might never play basketball again. Now Isaiah Austin has been cleared to play again.
December 1, 2016, 12:20am

In 2014, after his sophomore season at Baylor, Isaiah Austin declared for the NBA draft. It was a reasonable decision at the time, given that Austin was an ultra-rangy big man—both in the sense that his wingspan was measured at 7'4" and in the sense that he'd stretched his shooting range out beyond the three-point arc—growing into what appeared to be a very promising talent. But just days before he was projected to be a late first round pick, Austin found out his career might be over before it started. During a routine pre-draft physical, doctors detected an abnormality with his EKG and later diagnosed him with Marfan syndrome.

From the Marfan Foundation's website:

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Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the body's connective tissue. Connective tissue holds all the body's cells, organs and tissue together. It also plays an important role in helping the body grow and develop properly.

Features of the disorder are most often found in the heart, blood vessels, bones, joints, and eyes. Some Marfan features – for example, aortic enlargement (expansion of the main blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the rest of the body) – can be life-threatening. The lungs, skin and nervous system may also be affected.

Doctors recommended that the 7-foot center—who has also been blind in his right eye since he was 16—stop playing basketball immediately, and he was told he "wouldn't be able to play basketball anymore at a competitive level." At that year's draft, commissioner Adam Silver called Austin's name as a tribute. It was an emotional moment, not least because it felt so much like goodbye.

Marfan disorder affects different people in different ways, though, so Austin has been closely monitored by doctors in the intervening years. Today, on "Thru the Lens" with Cassy Athena, Austin revealed that he has been cleared to play basketball again.

While he hasn't revealed much more in the way of what this means for a professional career—whether he has any tryouts lined up or if anyone in the NBA or elsewhere has expressed interest—Austin has said he's planning pursuing his dream again. After all this, he's still just 23 years old.