One of the NBA’s unlikeliest players recounts his long, strange path to the pros.
Allred isn’t the first fundamentalist Mormon to play on professional basketball’s biggest stage, but he was the first legally deaf player in the league, and he might have the most inimitable back story. The grandson of revered “prophet” Rulon Allred, founder of a polygamist commune in Pinesdale, Mont., the author grew up in a household with only one mother while his friends had several. After tensions within the community forced his family to flee, they settled with relatives in Utah, where Allred dealt with the double stigma of coming from a polygamist community and being almost entirely deaf. Basketball, however, proved an ideal outlet for the 6’11” teen; it didn’t require perfect hearing and productively channeled his rapidly growing obsessive-compulsive disorder. His hard work was rewarded with a scholarship to play for the University of Utah, his favorite college team. That experience ended abruptly during his sophomore year, when verbally abusive coach Rick Majerus allegedly made disparaging remarks about Allred’s handicap. After transferring to Weber State and battling his OCD, Allred completed his collegiate eligibility and became a basketball vagabond, accepting offers to play with professional teams in Turkey, France and Spain. Injuries, shady contracts and inconsistent playing dogged him at every stop, and he nearly threw in the towel before signing a $12,000 contract with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA’s developmental league. All ended well when Allred impressed scouts and earned a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming a rookie in the NBA at age 27. His narrative suffers from an identity crisis: Is it a polygamy exposé, inspirational story of triumph over adversity, Paul Shirley–esque tale of a basketball outsider, personal journal or basketball chronicle? All of the above, it turns out, and that makes it a welcome departure from cookie-cutter sports autobiographies.
Unfocused but unique.