Billy Garrett Jr., the only NBA player with sickle cell disease, is an inspiration.

Billy Garrett Jr., the only NBA player with sickle cell disease, is an inspiration.

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Garrett: ‘It’s like a double whammy. Making it to the league and doing it with the disease. I hope it’s an inspiration to a lot of the kids with sickle cell.’ About 100,000 Americans are affected by sickle cell disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Around 500 athletes play in the NBA each season.

As the only known person to have played in the NBA with sickle cell disease, DePaul/Morgan Park alum Billy Garrett Jr. knows what it’s like to have both worlds intertwined.

“[Playing in the NBA is] something I’ve wanted since I was younger and something I’ve constantly been told I can’t do because of the sickle cell,” Garrett said Saturday during the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois’ 45th annual 8K Walk/Jog/Bike-A-Thon fundraiser. “It’s like a double whammy. Making it to the league and doing it with the disease. I hope it’s an inspiration to a lot of the kids with sickle cell.”

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