On Saturday, the Utah Jazz opened the doors of EnergySolutions Arena to the public, giving fans and spectators the opportunity to check out the best seats available for the upcoming 2014-15 basketball season.
For one Jazz fan, visiting the arena became more than a chance to select the seats he has always wanted. Brian Clayden, 28, and his father, Ray Clayden, experienced a dream come true by stepping on the floor and shooting hoops in the home of the Utah Jazz.
The Claydens were happy to have just made it in time to the event. Brian was excited to be on the arena floor for the first time in his life.
After dominating his opponents in a classic round of "Lighting," Brian Clayden had to take a quick break to catch his breath. He was not about to let go of the basketball, but stated, "I've got to slow down for a minute." Ray Clayden said Brian has to limit his physical activity and abilities.
"I am diagnosed with progressive Marfan syndrome, the same syndrome that Isaiah Austin has. I was diagnosed at birth, so I was one of the 'lucky ones.' Isaiah just found out last week," Brian Clayden said.
Clayden says he can relate to Austin as they share the same genetic disorder. "I actually missed the draft, but I heard Austin was an honorary NBA draft pick. I thought that was a very classy gesture by the league."
Clayden recently wrote, "For Austin to have put in so much hard work with such high hopes and tangible expectations — for it to end like this, days from the draft my heart goes out to him."
Clayden underwent open heart surgeries at the ages of 2, 12 and 24. Anytime he has had his mitral valves replaced, it has been due to tissue enlargement. Describing one complication before his second surgery, he said, "My heart was grafted onto the back of my sternum. I lost so much blood I was coma-induced for three days."
In the sixth grade, Clayden was told he would be restricted from playing any sport in school. He is grateful to be alive, but he is also happy to have had the chance to at least play basketball on one team for one summer in elementary school.
Being able to dunk in the seventh grade, Clayden dreamed of being a basketball player.
Challenging himself to dunk the ball while in the arena, Clayden made it clear that he isn't going to give up easily. In response to being on the floor, he said, "Now I know a little bit more about how it feels to be a basketball player."
The Clayden family said they were grateful for the genuine time spent at EnergySolutions Arena.
"It was so awesome to shoot hoops in the arena. If only I could have nailed a dunk! If anything is going to motivate me to get in shape, it's failing to dunk on the Utah Jazz's court. After focusing on exercise and rebuilding my leg strength, I'll have to try again."
Thrilled with the outcome of their day, Brian and Ray Clayden look forward to the upcoming season of the Utah Jazz.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company