Texas basketball is taking over The Players’ Tribune this week. One day after five-star recruit Mohamed Bamba chose the forum to announce his commitment to the Longhorns, former Texas star T.J. Ford gave fans a blast from the past with an emotional retelling of his story.
By now, you’ve likely heard or read about T.J. Ford’s career-long battle with spinal stenosis, starting with the time he was briefly paralyzed during a pickup game against the Texas football team in a packed Gregory Gym. But you’ve never heard it told like this.
“My hope was that it had just been a freak accident,” Ford wrote in the piece, which was published Friday. “An anomaly. But it wasn’t. It would be the first of many instances of temporary paralysis that I would experience during my basketball career. And with each successive episode, I would always ask myself the same questions.
“Is this it?
“Is this the one that’s going to be permanent?”
In his own words, Ford recounts his childhood growing up in Baytown, and how former Longhorns coach Rick Barnes convinced him to come to the 40 Acres. The focus then shifts to his nine-year NBA career, and the periodic back injuries that came to define it.
Now, Ford mentors youth across Texas with his TJ Ford Basketball Academy, which features elite AAU teams in Austin and Houston. He writes that more than 50 kids who have participated in the academy have earned scholarships.
Why come out with this story now? Well, this weekend, Ford will graduate from the University of Texas with a degree in youth and community studies and a minor in educational psychology.
Rick Barnes on campus to see T.J. Ford graduate. The pair that turbo-charged UT hoops together again. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) May 19, 2017
I’m going to take a walk that nobody in my family ever has before me. A walk almost 15 years in the making.
I’m going to walk across the stage at the University of Texas’ commencement ceremony and receive my college diploma in Applied Learning and Development: Youth and Community Studies, with a minor in Educational Psychology. In some ways, I think the experience will provide some closure on a certain chapter of my life. But in other ways, it also represents yet another new beginning for me.
If it wasn’t for the injuries I suffered, I’m not sure I’d be doing any of this.