A lot of people who are reading this might remember what happened next. I was invited to New York City for the big day, and halfway through the first round, Mr. Silver stepped up to the podium.

“With the next pick in the NBA Draft, the NBA selects Isaiah Austin.”

I wiped the tears off my eyes yet again, hugged my mom and dad, and walked over to that stage to shake the commissioner's hand. Minutes later I was on national television doing an interview with ESPN, where I was given the platform to honor God for what had just transpired.

But what people don't realize was that behind closed doors I was still going through my own personal turmoil.

When I was walking around the city in the days leading up to the draft, I was hanging out with all these guys who were actually going to live out their dream. Everybody was talking about how excited they were, and I was just there to be there. I had put in the same work that these guys had – I had put in the same late night film sessions, early morning workouts, and sprints up and down the court – but they were about to live out their dream and I was not.

That's when God gave me a new dream, a different dream...inspiring people. Every time I would open up my Instagram page, I would see people commenting on there how much I meant to them how much strength I had. They didn't know I was really struggling, but when enough people start to think you're strong, you start to believe it yourself.

The funny thing is, God knows that we're so much stronger than we ever give ourselves credit for. That's why He puts us way out of our comfort zone, knowing that in enough time we can turn the situation into an opportunity to glorify Him. It's just that his method isn't always easy. God is like that workout partner who let's you writhe on the bench press, feeling like you can't do anymore lifting on your own, and telling you that you can do it.


(Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics)

I feel like everyone who has gone through adversity or devastation has had their faith tested, and I was no different. You're going to have questions, you're going to have trials, but at the end of the day you've got to really sit down and evaluate your life. I have this many blessings and this many devastations, and my blessings cover those devastations. At the end of the day I really do believe in God's plan for me, and I really do believe faith has brought me this far in my life.

When I would pray to God during that time, I prayed for happiness and peace of mind. Before my diagnosis, my thoughts were about basketball, and I've learned to never let basketball define me as a person. I don't want to be remembered as a great basketball player. I want to be remembered as a great person.

As I continued to walk down the Lord's path and redefine myself, God granted me a miracle. In late 2016, my doctors looked at my symptoms, and cleared me to play. I was going to play basketball again. It was going to be overseas, but I was once again a professional basketball player. My mom was the one who broke the news to me that I couldn't play in the NBA, and now I was the one who got to break the news to her that I was going to play basketball again.

That is, if I could actually play the game. After all, it had been 2.5 years since I had played in an arena with real fans. It was a huge gamble, because I was going to uproot my life and move to Serbia to chase after a dream. Still, I felt like this was what I needed to do, so off to Serbia I went.

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Thomas Hager