As long as he can remember, Marques Bolden has had the game of basketball in his life. He was a standout in high school, a McDonald's All-American, and ultimately played for Duke University. However, as he entered training camp with the Cleveland Cavaliers this past September, doctors found that he has an enlarged heart.
"I was definitely caught off-guard," Bolden told The Big Lead in a phone interview.
The heart ailment showed up unexpectedly during a stress EKG test in a physical before training camp. His heart had an irregular heartbeat that raised a red flag to doctors.
Next, more tests proceeded, and for three weeks, he was not able to go to the gym or do anything physical. The setback derailed the beginning of his first NBA training camp.
"That was tough for me," he said. "I had been grinding hard getting in shape and getting ready to perform at my best for training camp to make the team."
There was also the possibility he would never be able to play basketball again.
"It was devastating," he said. "When you tell me it's something wrong with the heart, you just feel helpless."
During the period that he had to sit out, there was a lot of boredom and confusion. Basketball is all he's known. On top of that, this was his first time not in school. There wasn't much to do to get his mind off of what was going on.
Thankfully, his father, Melvin, came to Cleveland to spend time with him.
"That's the one person who's been with me every step of the way," he said.
Ultimately, the tests came back after several weeks, and he received clearance to play from the doctors. The condition will require monitoring but is in no way life-threatening.
"It was amazing," he said. "I wanted to go right to the gym."
After overcoming the troublesome news several weeks prior, he now had to go into an NBA training camp. As a rookie, this was his first time going against all NBA players. Not only did he play well, but even after the setback, he was on the roster until the final day of training camp.
Ultimately, he was released and sent to the Cleveland's G-League affiliate.
"I didn't want to go there moping and thinking that I shouldn't be there," he said. "I had to put my head down and focus on myself and work harder than I ever really have."
With this positive mindset, he averaged 9.0 points (64.2 percent shooting), 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in less than 20 minutes per game. The outstanding play during training camp and in the G-League landed him a 10-day contract with the Clevland Cavaliers on Thursday, January 30, and he made his NBA debut versus the Warriors this past Saturday.
"They could have picked anybody in the G-League," he said. "They could have given the 10-day to someone I had never heard about, but for the front office to pick me and try me out for this period of time and see something in me, I'm just going to try to show them that they're making the right decision."
With everything he has endured to get to this place, the rest of the road to earning a full-time roster spot should feel a lot easier.