As I opened that door to my Aunt Evelyn's house in June of 2014, it was hard to imagine life could get any better.
I was five days away from the NBA Draft, and waiting inside that house were all my closest friends and family. In five days, my life was going to change. Fame and financial security were just around the corner, and now I was going to celebrate with the people who helped get me there.
Once I opened that door, however, I realized I wouldn't need to wait five days for my life to change. I could see the look on everyone's faces, and when my mom uttered the words “I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” I knew I wasn't attending a party to celebrate my dreams coming true.
I was attending the funeral of my own NBA career.
When my mom repeated those two words over and over, I didn't have to question what she was talking about. I instantly knew. A few days before that, the NBA doctors had done some precautionary tests before the draft, and the test for Marfan Syndrome came up as a red flag. The additional tests had come back, and the news was devastating. I tested positive for this genetic disorder, where the arteries in my heart were too large. If I continued playing, doctors said, I could risk rupturing my arteries.
This dream, which was 20 years in the making, was over just like that. And I didn't know how to handle it.
My legs began to feel weak and I could feel every ounce of joy escape my body. I knew there were more than a dozen people in the room to help me process the news, but all I could see was my mom. It was just like tunnel vision, and my instincts just brought me straight to her.
As bad as I felt for myself, I also sympathized with my mom. She would do anything for me, but when your son has Marfan Syndrome, it's out of even the best mother's control.
And that's when I remembered who was really in control of the situation. God. That's when I went to the bathroom to regather myself.
As I splashed the water on my face, I looked deep inside my soul. You have a baby brother and a baby sister, I told myself, and they can't see you crying like this. This is the worst moment of your life to this point, and when you open that door, everyone is going to see how you will handle it.
That's when my brother and sister showed what family and love really look like.
As I made my way to the stairs and sat on one of the steps, my brother and sister came over and put their hands on me, as if they were praying. In that moment I didn't have to fake a smile, because a real one started to show up.
I wiped off all the tears on my face, but as turbulent as that night had been, the tears were only flowing out of one eye.
You see, for the last seven years, I have had a prosthetic in my right eye. The adversity I faced that night in the house was nothing I hadn't seen before.
(Title photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics)