You can argue whether the injured Joel Embiid went too high, whether Dario Saric should’ve been taken by the Magic (before that trade, of course) or if Zach LaVine slipped too far. But you absolutely cannot argue that the best pick of the 2014 NBA Draft was made by the NBA itself between Adreian Payne going to the Hawks at No. 15 and the Bulls’ No. 16 selection.
Baylor’s Isaiah Austin was on track to start his NBA at the Draft. Then on Sunday he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, Marfan syndrome. And that meant Austin would never play competitive basketball again.
But even though the heartbreaking news kept Austin from entering the NBA, it did not keep him from hearing his name called in New York on Thursday night.
Just before the Chicago Bulls selected Jusuf Nurkic, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave the Barclays Center — and everyone watching — one of the best moments in sports this year.
“With the next pick in the 2014 NBA Draft,” the commissioner said, “the NBA selects Isaiah Austin from Baylor University.”
Overcome with emotion, the 7’1” center dropped his head into his hand before walking across the stage—a dream come true for any basketball player.
Austin, donning a hat with the NBA emblem and beaming a 40-watt smile, shook Silver’s hand, received a standing ovation, and became an instant social media sensation.
In that moment, everyone—even Lakers and Celtics fans—agreed on a draft pick.
“It was one of the greatest moments of my life, something I’ll never forget,” Austin said. “I love this game of basketball so much. It’s really changed my life.”
Austin showed his overwhelming appreciation and gratitude towards Silver, the NBA, and everyone who had been supporting him all week. But in turn, he supported the other players around him, calling their night “a blessing,” as well.
“Just being around all the draftees and seeing all my friends get drafted, it just brings joy in my heart because I know how hard we work to get to this point,” Austin said.
Austin intends to become a spokesman for the Marfan Foundation. He has been offered several jobs within the realm of basketball, from high school to the NBA. “I would love to coach. I love learning the game, and I’m still going to be a student of the game even if I can’t play,” he said.
But first, he’s going to be a student of business. He plans to go back to school and finish his degree.
“I don’t want to be just an inspiration to people who play basketball. I want to be an inspiration to people all over the world,” Austin said. “So I just want them to know they have the power within themselves to do it if they keep faith and a positive attitude.”
Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images