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What Dreams Are Made Of: Four Minutes With Isaiah Austin

Get (more) familiar with former NBA prospect-turned-author, Isaiah Austin

Get (more) familiar with former NBA prospect-turned-author, Isaiah Austin

Isaiah Austin is a gentle giant. Hovering above seven feet, the former Baylor Bear is always armed with a smile and naturally optimistic phrases that are fitting of a life coach than an ex-college baller. While Marfan Syndrome (a genetic disorder) dashed his dreams of going pro in the NBA, Austin was named a 2014 draft honoree by league Commissioner Adam Silver, who praised his talents. "Like the other young men here tonight, Isaiah committed himself through 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."

These days, Austin has made inspiring others his reality, probably better than anyone who tried to fill his size 18 shoes. Founding his Isaiah Austin Foundation last year to support related disorders and other charitable causes, the 21-year-old is now an author, as well. At his recent book signing at New York's NBA Store (June 24), the Baylor University star sat down with VIBE to discuss his new page-turner Dream Again, his Draft Day anthem and how his struggle ultimately turned into success.

VIBE: I want to start with a quote from your book that really stuck with me. "Sometimes if you want to pursue your dream, you have to be willing to leave a good situation behind for the unknown." Speak on how that applies to your life
Isaiah Austin: Basketball has been my stepping stone my whole life. It's been something I've worked for my whole life and unfortunately, I've had to give it away because of a certain circumstance but it's been for the better. Basketball wasn't going to give me the opportunities I have now. I have opportunities to help inspire people all across the world [and] help them push through their own life problems, their struggles. I feel like if you give something up that's good, it's not always a bad thing. Me not being able to play basketball wasn't a bad thing; it's a blessing in disguise.

SEE ALSO: NBA Draft 2015 Preview: 5 Prospects To Know

A lot of people probably couldn't say the same. I feel like your optimism is a product of the people you surrounded with yourself, especially your family but what made you decide to pen your story into a book?
I wanted people to know the in-depth situation that I was really going through. A lot of people know that I had eye surgery and that I was playing blind in my eye but they didn't really know everything I've been through. After each eye surgery, I had to lay face down for four weeks at a time and then just getting hit with bad news after bad news, thinking my eye was healed then having to rush in for another emergency surgery. I wanted people to really go through my feelings, really try to experience it just so they know they're not alone when they're experiencing those feelings themselves, when they're fighting their own problems.

You also have a co-sign from Carmelo Anthony and your friend, Robert Griffin III, scribed the foreword but has there been anyone else—in or outside of the sports world—who commended you and took you by surprise?
[Trail Blazers'] Damian Lillard. He's really been on my side with all this. He sends me inspirational quotes and he'll text me that God gives His toughest battles to the strongest soldiers. He's been really supportive throughout this whole process but I couldn't thank him enough because to see how humbling a guy of that stature is, is a blessing.

Now let's say we took this book and turned it into a film. Who would you want to play Isaiah Austin?
Probably Will Smith.

You're also in NBA2K15. Do you actually play as yourself?
I have. I drafted myself to the Lakers so I can steal the ball from Kobe [Bryant] and put up more shots than him. [Laughs] That whole experience was amazing. Shout out to Ronnie 2K and those guys for making that happen.

This Thursday, the NBA Draft is going down at Barclays, marking a year since Adam Silver called your name as an honorary draftee. Which song would you consider your Draft Day anthem?
I have to say Fetty Wap "Zoo Wap."

SEE ALSO: Digital Cover: Fetty Wap ‘From My Trap To Yours’

Talk to me about your Isaiah Austin Foundation and why you decided to start that.
I started the foundation to just be able to share my story worldwide. I know that it's a great cause and a lot of people are supporting it. I want them to really know that what I'm doing is not for me, it's for the people around me. I've always been that type of person, never selfish or self-centered. I've always wanted to help inspire people. I feel like with my foundation, that's what we're striving to do: share my story, share my testimony but at the same time, bring the awareness to Marfan Syndrome 'cause that's what brought me to this stage in the first place.

Cop Isaiah Austin's Dream Again here and tune into the NBA Draft tonight (June 25) at 7pm ET on ESPN.

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Michael Jordan Reveals Plans To Launch NASCAR Team Next Year

Michael Jordan is beefing up his resume. The NBA legend and business mogul has added NASCAR team owner to his list of accolades.

Jordan is partnering with three-time Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin, to launch the team in 2021. Bubba Wallace has been tapped as a driver.

In an interview with NBC Sports, Jordan spoke about how the collaboration came together and confirmed that he’ll be just as competitive in NASCAR as he was in basketball. “It was one of those things, again, it’s always been on my mind,” he said of owning a team. “I go with my gut feeling. When the time is right you know it. When this was presented to me, I felt good about it. When Bubba was involved in the whole conversation I felt good about it.”

Jordan continued, “My biggest conversation with Denny was, ‘Look, I don’t want to get in there to just go around the races and just go around and around and around and finish up 18th, 19th, 20th, 30th. I want to win. I want to be put in a position for the best chance for us to win. That’s my competitive nature. That’s always been who I am.”

As one of only two Black co-owners for a Cup team (the first is Brad Duagherty) and the first Black majority owner in NASCAR, Jordan hopes to provide more opportunities for Black people in the sport.

“To me, you’re basically diving into a situation where very few Black people have been present into the NASCAR arena. In essence, you’re going in with the opportunity to expand that and to give a different lens to NASCAR as a whole,” he explained. “For so long, it’s been viewed from a negative aspect with the Confederate flag and all these other things that occurred.

“Now you go in with NASCAR making an effort to change the perspective and try to attract and connect to the next generation without losing something for today’s authenticity of the sport presented an opportunity for me to get involved in this whole process and know that I am spearheading a thought process of Blacks getting involved in NASCAR when in essence very few have since 1960s (when Wendell Scott competed and owned his own cars).”

For current NASCAR fans, the 57-year-old retired athlete noted that he isn't trying to “change and shape NASCAR.” Still, Jordan hopes that fans who have followed his career will support NASCAR as well.

“I go in with my passion. I hope that whoever knows Michael Jordan or whoever supports Michael Jordan, whoever supports NASCAR [sees] this as an opportunity to enjoy the sport.”

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WNBA Player Maya Moore Marries Wrongfully Convicted Man She Helped Get Out Of Prison

When WNBA star Maya Moore first met her now husband, Jonathan Irons, their relationship was strictly platonic. Things changed after she helped to get his wrongful conviction overturned, and the happy couple recently tied the knot.

“We wanted to announce today that we are super excited to continue the work that we are doing together, but doing it as a married couple,” Moore told Good Morning America on Wednesday (Sept. 16). “We got married a couple months ago and we're excited to just continue this new chapter of life together.”

Catch us tomorrow on @GMA with @RobinRoberts! #winwithjustice pic.twitter.com/0z1B1RRS2b

— Maya Moore (@MooreMaya) July 2, 2020

Irons was 16 years old when he was tried as an adult and falsely convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to 50 years for a burglary and shooting. He maintained his innocence throughout, but he would have never been convicted had the case been handled properly. Aside from being wrongfully identified in a lineup, fingerprint evidence that could have proved his innocence was withheld from his lawyers. After serving 23 years for a crime he did not commit, Irons' conviction was overturned in March.

Moore, 31, has known Irons, 40, since she was 18 years old. The two met through a prison ministry program and their relationship slowly transitioned from a friendship to romance. Irons confessed his love for Moore while incarcerated at Missouri's Jefferson City Correctional Center. “I wanted to marry her but at the same time protect her because being in a relationship with a man in prison, it's extremely difficult and painful. And I didn't want her to feel trapped and I wanted her to feel open and have the ability any time if this is too much for you, go and find somebody. Live your life. Because this is hard.”

He popped the question in their hotel room following his prison release. “It was just me and her in the room and I got down on my knees and I looked up at her and she kind of knew what was going on and I said, ‘will you marry me,’ she said, ‘yes.’”

Moore, a small forward for the Minnesota Lynx, is taking a break from basketball and has been working alongside her husband to encourage people to vote. The newlyweds also plant to advocate for others who have been wrongfully convicted.

See more on their love story in the video below.

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Vanessa Bryant Calls Out L.A. Sheriff In Defense Of LeBron James

Vanessa Bryant came to LeBron James’ defense after Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva challenged the NBA star to donate $175,000 in reward money to help catch the suspect who shot two officers in Compton last weekend.

“This challenge is to LeBron James,” Villanueva said on Monday (Sept. 14). “I want you to match that and double that reward. Because I know you care about law enforcement, you expressed a very, very interesting statement about your perspective on race relations and officer-involved shootings and the impact it has on the African American community and I appreciate that.”

Taking to her Instagram Story on Monday, Vanessa tagged James in a reposted a comment that read: “He shouldn’t be challenging LeBron James to match a reward or ‘to step up to the plate.’ He couldn’t even ‘step up to the plate’ and hold his deputies accountable for photographing dead children.” The statement was in reference to deputies taking photos at Kobe Bryant's crash site. The grieving widow also reposted another comment reading, “How can he talk about trusting the system? His sheriff’s dept. couldn’t be trusted to secure Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash scene, his deputies took and shared graphic photos of crash victims. Vanessa Bryant is suing them.”

In January, Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, died in the tragic plane crash along with seven other victims. According to Vanessa’s lawsuit, Villanueva assured her that the crash site had been secured.

“In reality, however, no fewer than eight sheriff's deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches,” the claim states. “As the department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes.”

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