A Tribute to Kenny George: A Tough Career, but There's More to Him Than Ball

Ari Kramer@Ari_KramerSenior Analyst IIOctober 20, 2008

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, life was never easy for Kenny George. At the age of two, his parents separated. As an adolescent, a doctor discovered that George had an overactive pituitary gland, which leads to abnormal growth—this condition is not life-threatening, but George needs to get the gland checked by an endocrinologist once a month.

Now a senior at UNC-Asheville, George stands at 7'7". With his customized size 26 shoes on, the top of George's head is seven feet and nine inches off the ground. 

George's father, Ken Sr., claims that he never intended for his son to pursue a career in basketball. However, his son was 6'11" as a sophomore at Chicago Latin High School, and the varsity basketball coach recognized that George, even at 6'11," had very steady control of his body. It was then that George really began to pursue playing basketball at a higher level.

As a senior at Chicago Latin, George nearly averaged a triple double with eight points, 10 rebounds, and nine blocks per game. He dislocated his right kneecap and missed eight weeks, but he was still able to lead his team to the sectional playoffs.

Despite the risk of injury that comes with someone of George's height, Eddie Biedenbach of UNC-Asheville wanted to ink the 7'7" blocking machine for four years at his program. 

All 370 pounds of Kenny George arrived at UNC-Asheville in the fall of 2004, but he was not allowed to play for the basketball team due to academic ineligibility. George planned to debut for the Bulldogs at the start of the 2005-06 season, but he needed major surgery to repair another dislocated knee. He was redshirted because of the injury. 

After battling sore knees in the preseason, George finally made his debut as a UNC-Asheville Bulldog on November 22, 2006 against Virginia. He was able to block five shots in 15 minutes, but his knees became too swollen and sore for him to play in any of the next five games. 

Knee injuries don't come as a surprise when you are 7'7" and 370 pounds. George's knees had to support a lot of weight, so the center saw limited action to avoid leaving all 370 pounds on his knees for too long. 

Despite the pain, George played through the 2006-07 season, averaging 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and two blocks in just 10.5 minutes per game. Towards the beginning of the season, there were multiple games where George saw less than five minutes of action, but he played at least 13 minutes in each of his final six games. 

Last season, George averaged 12.4 points, seven rebounds, and 3.3 blocks in nearly 20 minutes per game. He gained national attention when his Bulldogs squared off against Tyler Hansbrough's North Carolina squad. George came off the bench to score 14 points and pull down a game-high 11 boards in 24 minutes of action.

Hansbrough didn't have much trouble against UNC-Asheville's big man, as the former executed a thunderous dunk on the latter, but George showed Hansbrough up by completing a dunk without leaving the ground.

George completed a triple-double against Campbell for the first time in school history when he scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and blocked 10 shots. 

Overall, George was very impressive in 2007-08 and was key to the Bulldogs' appearance in the NIT. 

Saddening the college basketball world, news broke out this week that George recently had part of his right foot amputated due to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA is a bacterium that is responsible for difficult-to-treat infections in humans.

Although Biedenbach would not reveal the specifics of George's condition, MRSA is a staph infection that generally spreads through open wound or skin-to-skin contact. It can be inferred that the partial amputation was necessary to prevent further spreading of the infection. 

At the big man's size, it is hard to fit through doorways. Riding New York's subway is nearly impossible because of the low ceiling at the entrance to the car. He needs customized sneakers, and he can't drive because his body cannot safely fit in the driver's seat. 

Add the amputation to the mix, and it is very likely that George will never play basketball again.

However, UNC-Asheville looks forward to seeing George complete his senior year of college. 

Luckily for the big fella, there are things other than basketball that George finds interesting. The center has written several short stories and is also deeply interested in graphic design, animation, cartoons, and comic books. 

Hopefully for Kenny, he will find a way to lead his life in the direction of his non-athletic interests. 

For now, our prayers are with you, Kenny George.