It seems odd, but the 2014 NBA Draft's most memorable moment had nothing to do with a prospect entering the league. Instead, that magic moment came in the middle of the first round, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took a break to recognize former Baylor center Isaiah Austin. Just days before the draft, Austin learned he wouldn't be able to pursue a professional basketball career, after being diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Marfan syndrome.
"Like the other young men here tonight, Isaiah committed himself to endless hard work and dedication to a potential career as a professional basketball player and we wanted to make sure he fulfilled at least this part of his dream," Silver announced, as the crowd at the Barclays Center gave a standing ovation. "So it gives me great pleasure to say that with the next pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the NBA selects Isaiah Austin from Baylor University."
The emotional 7-foot-1-inch Austin then put on a hat with the NBA logo on it and walked up to the podium to greet Silver. The 20-year-old, who was projected to be an early second-round pick, told ESPN's Jay Williams "when God closes one door he opens up another for you."
Later on Thursday night, Silver spoke about the moment with Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com.
"We knew we wanted to do something that would allow his dream to come true. He's a special young man. And it was very difficult for me to maintain my composure up there," Silver told CBSSports.com. "It's sad that something that was such a big part of his life has been taken away, but he's making the best of a bad situation. That's the best kind of outlook on life. We're proud of Isaiah."
According to the Marfan Foundation, Marfan syndrome affects how the body produces connective tissue, which "plays an important role in helping the body grow and develop properly." One feature of Marfan Syndrome, aortic enlargement, can be life-threatening. Austin told ESPN.com that doctors told him "that my arteries in my heart are enlarged and that if I overwork myself and push too hard that my heart could rupture." It was recommended that Austin stopped playing basketball immediately.
In two seasons at Baylor, Austin averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.