A Nonfiction Short Story

by Mallory

This very week last year, Tony Snell (an ex-nba player) announced that his two-year-old son had been diagnosed with Autism. Tony was very confused. He didn’t really know what Autism was, or where his son could’ve possibly inherited this from. But as he looked more into it, and met with more doctors on the condition, he realized his son might have inherited it from him. Tony was not diagnosed, so he went and got checked out and evaluated and sure enough due to his mental health history from childhood to now, doctors decided to formally diagnose him with Autism as well. This is why I love Tony Snell because instead of becoming angry over his son’s diagnosis or accusing it of being false along with his own diagnosis, he actually grew from it, and embraced it. For example, He later on started the Tony Snell Foundation dedicated to promoting care and research for Autism patients. 

Not only do I admire and love Tony Snell for his work and determination but I can relate to him. I’ve played basketball since I was five, and going into eighth grade, I started to gain a lot of confidence, and I started getting more attention. Coaches were telling me I could go division one, and that I could be a great player. Everything was great except during the end of that eighth grade season, an issue I had struggled with a lot, but didn’t identify as anything, was becoming more visible and worse. It made me physically sick, panic attacks, Meltdowns, etc. It was my anxiety. I had been playing for two l teams at the same time for  those past three years and it was really making me wonder if I was officially burned out. 

Fast forward to that summer I went to the highschool basketball camp since I was planning on playing. When I walked in, the coaches pointed me over to the big gym, where varsity played. I remember shaking and being petrified realizing that those adults really believed I should be playing with seventeen and eighteen year olds. After that first day of camp, I went home and cried. It just kept happening, basketball kept making me cry.

 That fall of my freshman year, my family decided to get me psych evaluated again since I was four when I last had been evaluated , and obviously things were becoming worse. It took four hours. My therapist walked in with a twenty page packet about me, with the conclusions and results, and diagnosed me with Autism. She said when I was four, they should’ve diagnosed me with it then based on my medical history. She said that it was very strange and concerning that they didn’t. Nothing happened further, they just considered it a partial mis-diagnosis on those previous  doctors’ part. I walked out of that room in shock. I finally had the answer. It  made so much sense. Not being able to make eye contact, my tics, speech issues, etc. It was such a relief and a weight off my chest to have an answer. 

They had a treatment plan for me all set up. But, of course, I was diagnosed two weeks before basketball tryouts. I thought long and hard. I prayed on it, and truly had to dig deep. I decided not to play. I was done with basketball, I truly thought I couldn’t handle it. 

Sophomore year, I started playing for fun. I didn’t really realize that just because I wasn’t playing for a team, that didn’t mean I couldn’t shoot sometimes for fun. Shooting once turned into once a week, which later turned to four  times a week, which turned to nearly every day at the gym or at home playing basketball. I had been posting videos of myself playing, not knowing that the rumor  was spreading that I had officially quit, since I had previously told people I was just taking a year off for that purpose. I didn’t want people to find out that I was quitting until I was ready to give them the answer.

 I coached basketball at my middle school, and parents kept coming up to me and saying things like “I used to love watching you play” and “That’s too bad.” Everytime I told them about me not playing, their smiles turned to frowns . It was always a knife to the heart, it felt like each person was saying to me “You’re wasted potential.” or “You’re full of it.” I was tired, sick, and pissed off. Not only with peers but with myself because I truly did believe that I had made a mistake, that I could really go somewhere with basketball, make a career out of it. As I laid in bed the past few months I had to convince myself of one thing. If I do this, it’s not to make them proud, it’s to make that little five year old girl who decided to pick up an orange ball proud. She wanted to go to the WNBA, have her own shoe, meet lebron, have her own cereal, and so on. As I came to many conclusions at the beginning of this summer, as of two weeks ago.

 I made the decision to come back. Not because they weren’t proud, but because I knew that my mission wasn’t complete, I know the risks I am taking, and the chances of me going pro or playing D1 aren’t high, but I don’t care.

 I heard Kobe Bryant in an interview once say that he used to say to himself “I don’t know if I can get to that level, but you know what? Let’s find out.” he also once said “Job’s not finished.” one game away from winning the NBA championship. That’s what this feels like for me. So that’s what I’m going to say. It’s time I find out instead of dreaming about it and wondering about it, it’s time to finish the job. Thank you.

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