Big men in the 2014 NBA Draft have not had the best of luck. Julius Randle's foot injury is worrying general managers, Joel Embiid's back and foot have dropped the No. 1 prospect's status into a state of limbo and Dario Saric opted to remain in Europe for at least two more years.
However, none of those issues pales in comparison to the challenge faced by 7-1 draft prospect Isaiah Austin.
For the second time this season, Austin was forced to make a startling admission. When Austin revealed that he has been blind in one eye since eighth grade earlier this year, his perseverance endeared him to college basketball fans.
In April, Austin declared for the NBA Draft early and was considered a likely first rounder despite his disability until he was rocked with news that forced Austin to retire from the game four days before the 2014 NBA Draft. During a standard EKG, a genetic anomaly was discovered and after further testing Austin was diagnosed with Marfan's syndrome.
Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissues in the body, and can interfere with the functionality of the heart, eyes, blood vessels and skeleton.According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s common for people with Marfan syndrome to be tall with disproportionately long arms, legs, fingers and toes. Austin is 7 ft. 1 in. tall.
The severity of the disease can differ from person to person, but if the heart and blood vessels are affected it can become a fatal disease. For example, aortic enlargement is a possible life threatening side effect and some players have died in the middle of a game due to the disease.
“They said I wouldn’t be able to play basketball anymore at a competitive level,” Austin told ESPN. “They found the gene in my blood sample. They told me that my arteries in my heart are enlarged and that if I overwork myself and push too hard that my heart could rupture. The draft is four days away, and I had a dream that my name was going to be called.”
While some have speculated that swimmer Michael Phelps has Marfan's it's never been confirmed. Regardless, for Austin, it wasn't worth the risk. However, a crestfallen Austin spoke to ESPN's Holly Rowe on Sunday.