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Isaiah Austin Has His Own NBA Opening Night Experience

Even though Isaiah Austin’s NBA dreams were ended by Marfan syndrome, he still took the court on opening night.

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Isaiah Austin was on the court for opening night after all.

For most of his life Austin envisioned making an NBA roster. Those dreams ended abruptly four months ago when he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome during a pre-draft physical. Marfan syndrome is a life-threatening genetic disorder of connective tissue which affects the heart. The Baylor University big man who had been a projected first-round pick withdrew from the draft after the diagnosis.

On Wednesday the Boston Celtics honored Austin during their season opener against the Brooklyn Nets for his work raising awareness as spokesperson of The Marfan Foundation. Team owners presented him with an official jersey and the Heroes Among Us award at halfcourt of TD Garden during a second quarter timeout.

“For me, [it was important to stay close to basketball] just because I have such a deep love for the game,” Austin said before the game. “It’s always been something that I’ve loved since I was a little kid. Basketball really did change my life, so I feel like I owe it to basketball to still be around the game and share my knowledge and share my story with people all around the world.”

The NBA recognized Austin on draft night when the league selected him with a ceremonial pick. Since then he has shifted his focus. Through his outreach Austin has had the opportunity to meet many people with the condition, some who were also at the game. In the process, he has been motivated as well.

“A lot of the kids that I’m meeting, they’re just warriors,” Austin said. “Their strength really inspires me.”

The transition away from being an athlete has had its challenges. Austin’s aspirations were dashed just days before the draft upon hearing medical results. His life as he knew it changed in an instant. Austin, 21, has begun developing new interests, among them playing video games in his spare time (Destiny is his favorite). It is a process, one that he is ready to embrace.

“I’m still getting over it (being unable to play basketball),” Austin said. “I still miss the game every day of my life. But at the same time, I know that I have a different path that I’m taking and a different journey that I’m on right now. I’m not letting it dwell. I’m moving forward and I’m staying positive.”

Austin described being in an NBA arena for opening night as “amazing.” Marfan syndrome may have taken him off the court as a player, but it can’t keep him away from the game he loves.

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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