Disabilities suck. And whether the disabilities are mental or physical, those who suffer from them should get all the credit in the world. They put up with the fact that even the simplest tasks can be excruciatingly difficult or frustrating; they deal with the stares, prejudices, and sometimes downright mean comments or actions of people around them; and often they eventually and routinely triumph over their parts of their disabilities.
In some cases, a few extremely brave and dedicated people even overcome their mental or physical ailments altogether. And in even rarer instances, the challenged become the challengers, as some end up even more intelligent or physically talented than the average person.
In each of the following instances, the individuals in question encountered some type of condition which would generally hinder one from playing or excelling at a sport, or would make it more difficult for them to comprehend information, learn, take exams, or get good grades. These challenges might have been inherited at birth, developed at an early age, or not occurred until later in life. But for every person on this list, there was eventually a success story, as everyone not only competed in basketball, but made it to the highest level, and didn’t let their issues hold them back. Here are the top 15 NBA players who overcame mental/physical disabilities.
(Note: We apologize to anyone who finds the term “disability” offensive. If you prefer “differently abled,” “challenged,” etc., please go ahead and mentally swap the words in this article.)
15 Lance Allred
14 Royce White
13 Mitch McGary
12 Randy Foye
No matter how caring of an individual NBA guard Randy Foye is, his heart will never be in the right place. Literally. Foye was born with a condition called situs inversus, which means his internal organs are reversed, or a mirror image of a normal human body. Normally this would cause a whole mess of medical issues, but in Foye’s case, his organs are still arranged perfectly (albeit on opposite sides) and the only complications he suffered involved an increased chance of developing pneumonia or other infections.
11 Evan Turner
10 Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
9 Brandon Roy
8 Gerald Green
Gerald Green began his NBA career after getting drafted 18th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft, and has since played with the Celtics, Timberwolves, Rockets, Mavericks, Nets, Pacers, Suns, and Heat (his current team) in addition to a couple of years abroad. Despite having 15 seasons of experience and exposure, some fans might still be shocked to find out the shooting guard/small forward has done it all with only nine fingers. When he was in sixth grade, Green got a ring he was wearing caught on a makeshift basketball hoop while dunking, and it tore his finger off.
7 Chris Wilcox
6 Delonte West
Delonte West was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008, but the symptoms had been plaguing him almost his entire life. The tipping point came during a preseason game in which he blew up at an official, and ended up taking two weeks away from the team to seek counseling and get medication to treat his condition. After previously playing in the NBA for four years with the Celtics, SuperSonics, and Cavaliers, Delonte West returned to finish his time in Ohio (and posted an impressive 11.7 PPG), and followed it up with a stint on the Minnesota Timberwolves, a return to Boston, and a season with the the Dallas Mavericks.
5 Olden Polynice
4 Sean Elliott
3 Lamarcus Aldridge
2 Alonzo Mourning
1 Magic Johnson
With the unbelievable basketball career and post-playing HIV activism and philanthropy of Magic Johnson, most people forget (or never even knew) that Earvin “Magic” Johnson actually suffered from a learning disability at an early age. Johnson struggled with dyslexia as a child, which made some people doubt he would ever read or become a functioning member of society, let alone one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He took summer courses to catch up and pass all his classes, and eventually graduated high school and got accepted to Michigan State. I’ll spare you the already-well-known details of his illustrious NBA career, as it’s abundantly clear Johnson is a bonafide success story.
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