Wright became the first-known NBA player to acknowledge having multiple sclerosis when he signed a 10-day deal with Dallas and joined the Mavs in San Antonio. That’s a fact that Wright is especially proud of after earning a call-up from the D-League.
“That’s definitely one of the things I pride myself on, being the face of it and being an inspiration and motivation for people to keep fighting.” said Wright, who averaged 15.5 points, 7.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals for the Iowa Energy this season to earn a D-League All-Star bid. “I made history with this.”
Wright was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic, unpredictable disease that affects the central nervous system, while playing for Olin Edime in the Turkish Basketball League last season.
The first sign of the disease occurred when his foot gave out while he was running line sprints at the end of a March practice. Wright lost sensation and felt pain and numbness in his right hand, right arm and right leg that night, prompting him to visit multiple doctors and specialists before the disease was finally diagnosed correctly.
Common symptoms of MS include fatigue, numbness, loss of balance, poor coordination, blurred vision and problems with memory and focus, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which estimates that more than 2.1 million people are affected by the disease. In severe cases, MS can cause paralysis. Wright originally was told by Turkish doctors that his basketball career was finished.
“The doctors told me that, but I didn’t think so,” said Wright, 23, a former Georgetown star who went undrafted in 2011. “I just knew it’d be a process, and when I got back, it’d be a good story.”
Wright returned to serious basketball activity in July. He missed an opportunity to play in the NBA’s summer league but was ready for the beginning of the D-League season and seized the opportunity. The Mavs opted to call up Wright after waiving reserve guard Dominique Jones this week.
“Chris is a true point guard that’s consistently ranked as one of the top point guards in the D-League this season,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He’s a high-character, tough competitor who’s had to consistently overcome personal challenges like MS to put himself in this position. The physical obstacles he’s had to contend with are significant.”
Added coach Rick Carlisle, who is uncertain when Wright will get his first NBA playing time: “It shows determination and an element of resourcefulness, which I think is a very important quality on any NBA team, to have as many resourceful guys as you can. I know he’s very pleased to have this opportunity. And it’s going to give inspiration to others that may have similar conditions.”
Wright, grateful to the Mavs given his medical situation, said his disease is in remission. He has not had an episode since the one in Turkey, which lasted two weeks, and visits a specialist for a checkup every six months. He takes an intravenous dose of Tysabri, which he says is the strongest MS medicine, once a month.
“There’s not a cure for MS,” Wright said. “Can there be a relapse? Absolutely. But with the way I’ve been progressing and the way my body has been — it helps that I’m an athlete as well — it reduces the risk of that happening again. I just go from there and see what happens.”
Wright’s arrival in the NBA happened to occur during MS Awareness Week. It also came weeks after the birth of his first son, Chris Jr.
“It’s all a blessing,” Wright said. “This has been a great month for me.”