By Chad Bonham
2014 NCAA Tournament: Baylor 85, Creighton 55 (March 23, 2014)
Not long after Baylor soundly defeated Creighton and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, the Bears’ starting center Isaiah Austin made sure to grab his phone and share the exciting moment with his mother Lisa Green. She quickly reminded her son—still in a state of disbelief—of his favorite Bible verse.
“For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
While those words from the apostle Paul spoke to Austin’s emotional and spiritual state of mind, there was actually a more literal meaning that gave that passage even greater significance. At the age of 16, Austin suffered a retinal detachment and went through four surgeries to repair the damage. Unfortunately, he was left blind in his right eye.
“He loved the sport,” Green told reporters. “Him thinking that he couldn’t play was devastating.”
But Austin fought through his fears and made the necessary adjustments to stay on the court. He eventually landed at Baylor but didn’t reveal his partial blindness publicly until two months prior to the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
“If I were to get hurt or something and I couldn’t play basketball tomorrow,” Austin told reporters during the NCAA Tournament, “then I would be super thankful for the career that I’ve had. Not a lot of people get to play in my shoes or make it to this level. For me to make it to this level with the injury I had is a complete blessing.”
Austin didn’t realize just how prophetic his words would become. Just days before the 2014 NBA Draft, an EKG revealed an abnormality which later was revealed as Marfan syndrome, “a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue that holds together all of the body’s cells, organs and tissue” that can be life threatening. Doctors immediately recommended that Austin cease all athletic activities. His hopes of playing in the NBA were instantly dashed.
“I would love to thank EVERYONE who has reached out to me,” he Tweeted to his friends and followers. “Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT!”
For the next two and a half years, Austin remained hopeful for his future. Then in December of 2016, his doctors approved his return to the basketball court. Shortly thereafter, Austin signed a contract to play professionally in Serbia.
After 2014 I was told this day would never come, but God is great and has been with me this whole time, so here I am!” Austin wrote on his Facebook page. “Signing my first professional basketball contract ever, and I am so grateful!”
This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.
(Photos: Iam_chihang via Flickr; Isaiah Austin’s Twitter account)