Chris Wright reflects on being the first NBA player with multiple sclerosis: ‘I couldn’t stand up’

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In the United States, one million people are affected by multiple sclerosis, so it is not completely uncommon. However, to be a professional athlete with this condition is very rare, as it can bring out physical limitations that are definitely challenging if you hope to make a career out of it. 

This was the case for Chris Wright, who became the first NBA player to ever be diagnosed with MS, and has been living with this disorder for over a decade now. The 34-year-old recently shared some of his experience on May 30, as it is World MS Day.

The retired athlete recalled how he started to experience symptoms in 2012, as he noticed a tingling feeling in his right foot. “As I was shooting, I felt a tingling sensation in my right hand that eventually spread throughout my entire body within a matter of a minute,” he told the press this past weekend.

He then revealed how his coaches immediately decided to send him to the medical staff, who simply told him to take the day off. “The next morning I woke up, and I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t really use my limbs,” he added, as he had to use a wheelchair to get around. “They sent me to a specialist, where I was quickly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.”

MS is considered by specialists as a chronic disease that invades the central nervous system and can affect everything from speech, vision and movement. The former Pelicans player recalled seeing many doctors, before finally meeting Dr. Crayton, who is a board-certified neurologist that practices at the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Greater Washington.

“What led me to her was her confidence and her ability to simplify what it meant to have MS and to make it manageable for me. [She] helped me understand that I could still go on with my career and my life in a way that I wanted to,” Chris assured.

Dr. Crayton, who was also interviewed for this same occasion, reminded the audience that the patient-doctor relationship is a “marathon, not a sprint.”

“It’s really important to find a doctor they can trust, who they can communicate with, who they can partner with to make decisions,” she explained. “You need a team of people who support you, love you and accept you.”

Wright officially became the first NBA athlete to be diagnosed with MS when he signed for the Mavericks

Just a bit under a year after his first diagnosis, Wright signed a new contract in Dallas and officially became the first person to ever play in the NBA with his condition. During his recent interview, he discussed how he’s come to terms with MS.

“MS impacted my career tremendously, because there was nobody before me,” Chris said last weekend. “I had NBA offers that were retracted because of the possibility of me having medical conditions and just being in uncharted territory — but I kept working and overcame it.”

Today, the former athlete is a proud husband and father of three and is no longer playing the sport he loves. However, he feels healthier than he’s been in a long time. “Living with MS, it looks good, it feels good — I feel great,” Wright said.

“I try to stay active. I try to stay healthy. I try to stay moving. And I’ve been able to keep myself healthy and continue to be a father and live my life the way I want to live,” Chris advised any person living with his same condition.