Anthony Ianni was the first ever D1 player diagnosed with autism. His condition presented challenges that almost resulted in a fistfight with a loud, trash-talking teammate. Here's why Anthony calls his unexpected friendship with Draymond Green a blessing in disguise.
A blessing in disguise
Anthony Ianni was informed of his condition when he was four years old. He was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a high-functioning form of autism but didn’t let it stop him from achieving his dreams. Basketball was his refuge, but soon, challenges of his condition presented themselves.
When he became a part of Michigan State University Spartans, Draymond Green was already there. At that time, the burly forward also displayed advanced skills at trash talking. Unfortunately, Anthony’s condition prevented him from distinguishing serious talk from jokes. He would take everything literally.
At one point, he and Green almost came to blows due to a misunderstanding. Draymond was later told about his teammate’s condition, and he approached him the next day to ask why he didn’t reveal he had autism. Since then, the Golden State Warriors forward and Anthony Ianni’s friendship grew. Since then, Ianni calls his friendship with Green a blessing in disguise.
“Having somebody with that type of stardom, if you will, to understand what one of their teammates is going through and how they can adapt to that person — that really showed me not only what kind of a leader that Draymond was and still is, but what kind of a person he is as well.”
Advocates of autism
Green’s eyes have been opened about autism and he now actively campaigns to raise the public's awareness about it. The Warriors have done several events that support organizations that deal with autism, and Draymond always made sure his ex-teammate was involved.
Now, Ianni tours the country as a motivational speaker. He has released a book called "Centered: Autism, Basketball, and One Athlete’s Dreams" in hopes that his life would inspire others with the same diagnosis. Doctors claimed he wouldn’t be able to graduate high school, but because of much-needed support, he exceeded expectations and then some.
For Green, sometimes, all it needs is a friend who’s willing to listen and learn.
“Success for someone with autism is to simply have a friend in this world, and if I can help that I’m always down and I always want to be a helping hand.”
Draymond Green might be harsh, loud, or rough, but off the court, he is just a passionate human being always ready to lend a helping hand.