Isaiah Austin Is Dominating China But Isn’t Allowed To Sign An NBA Contract

Photo Credit: Jason DeCrow/AP Photo

Isaiah Austin Is Dominating China But Isn’t Allowed To Sign An NBA Contract


Imagine being days away from the NBA Draft and your dream of making it to the big-leagues is taken away. 

Austin—who is legally blind in one eye—was projected to be a late first-round or early second-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but it wasn’t until a pre-draft medical test revealed a problem much more dangerous than being blind. The test revealed Austin has Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissues that hold together all of the body’s cells and organs. Doctors feared if Austin were to play professional basketball, or any basketball at all, he would suffer life-threatening issues, such as arteries rupturing inside his body. The league announced Austin could not be eligible for the draft.

Though his dream was not fulfilled, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver invited Isaiah Austin to the NBA Draft and awarded him a ceremonial pick between the 15th and 16th draft selections. Austin was drafted into the league, but only for the honor, not to be a player.

Then, in November of 2016, Austin was medically cleared to play. He announced trying to attempt playing professional basketball again. On January 7, 2017, he signed his first professional contract with Serbian club FMP. After playing 9 games in Serbia, Austin joined the Guangxi Rhinos of the Chinese NBL and tore the league apart. In the 16 games he’s played for Guangxi, he averaged 34.6 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 4.3 blocks per game.

Austin, who still is only 24-years old, was able to prove that his first season wasn’t a fluke, averaging 35.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, while logging heavy minutes, in his second season.

Are these performances enough for him to get another shot in the NBA? Yes, I’m pretty sure some teams would be interested in trying it out, but they aren’t allowed to. Isaiah Austin is not allowed to have one.

NBA doctors declared Austin ineligible to play, and therefore won’t ever declare him eligible, due to his condition.

Austin’s personal doctor, Dr. David Liang, seems to have a different approach. While also knowing the risks, he gave his ok for Austin to play as not playing would have effected his mental health. He told Bleacher Report:


“What I’m trying to weigh is his physical risk as well as his psychological and emotional risk, this is what I do for a living. When I first met Isaiah, the cost of not playing was, ‘He’s going to be happy, able to function and enjoy his life—in which case, alright, just don’t play’. As time went on, it became clear to me that if he didn’t have a chance to play, it would have left a big wound in him emotionally and psychologically. That’s what changed for me.”


Let’s hope Austin can have a great career overseas without ever experiencing physical problems.

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