The NBA signed the first legally deaf player in its history Thursday.
Lance Allred of the NBDL’s Idaho Stampede signed a 10-day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, mainly as backup for their injury-plagued front court. Allred’s ascendancy to basketball’s biggest stage was rockier than most.
Allred, who is listed at 6-foot-11 and is 75% deaf, transferred out of Rick Majerus‘ program at Utah in 2002. Allred’s relationship with the former Utes’ coach was…a bit strained.
From SPORTSILLUSTRATED.COM’s piece on Majerus last January:
“[During] the 2001-02 season Majerus reportedly called Lance Allred, a backup center who was 75% deaf, ‘a disgrace to cripples” who had “weaseled [his] way through life using [his poor] hearing as an excuse…’
“Chris Burgess, Utah’s starting center that season, recalls that when an injury knocked him out of the lineup, Majerus’s badgering reduced Allred to tears: ‘Lance came crying to me, ‘Chris, when are you going to be back? Please. I don’t want to start tomorrow. I don’t want to play anymore. I need you to take the pressure off me.’ ‘ “
Allred averaged 17 points per game in his senior year, back in 2004-05 at Weber State, and went undrafted. He played in Europe until making the Stampede this year, and was averaging about 30 minutes and 16 points per game with that team before getting the call from Cleveland, who picked up Allred in part to avoid being stuck with one of two other players.
“The Cavs allowed the 10-day contracts of Kaniel Dickens and Billy Thomas to expire. If the team wanted to keep either, they would’ve had to sign him for the rest of the season, under league rules.”
And so, the deaf kid from Utah will finally get a chance to make some noise in the NBA.