When shooting guard King McClure showed up at Baylor University in 2015, he was one of the top recruits in the country. An NBA career seemed likely.
But before he even made it to his first college game, a doctor told him that his basketball career was over – forever.
Routine heart screening exams revealed that McClure had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, a condition that causes the walls of the heart chamber to become thicker, which can impede blood flow to and from the heart. HCM can increase the risk of cardiac arrest, especially during physical activity, like basketball. In 1990, college basketball star Hank Gathers collapsed on the court and died because of HCM. In 1993, Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis died from HCM during an offseason practice.
RELATED: Black History of Health: Hank Gathers
Refusing to take no for an answer
In search of more answers – and, hopefully, a different opinion about his playing options – McClure flew from Texas to Seattle to see a specialist.
“He told me if I continued to play basketball, I would die,” McClure recalls. “He would not clear me to return to the game – and he said I had to completely stop doing this thing that I loved.”
McClure broke down in tears. He’d started bouncing a basketball when he was just 3 and had been playing competitively since he was 5.
“Basketball was my life,” he says.
His mom refused to take no for an answer. She firmly believed her son would play again. With the help of Baylor men’s basketball coach Scott Drew – and buoyed by the fact McClure had no symptoms and there was no family history of heart disease – they sought more insight.
McClure was also encouraged by Monty Williams, a former Notre Dame standout and NBA player (and now coach of the Phoenix Suns), who was also diagnosed with HCM before his own collegiate career.
The McClures weren’t just shopping for someone to say what they wanted to hear. Given that there had been two decades since