Nothing—not even a life-altering battle with Crohn’s disease—could stop Erron Maxey from pursuing his dream of playing professional basketball. The 40-year-old has now suited up in 15 different countries.
by Brian Knapp
The steady drumbeat of a dribbled basketball echoes through the Ronald M. Bradley Gymnasium, followed by the occasional crack of a taut net. A few walkers circle the track overhead inside the recreation complex at Turner Lake Park, casting sporadic glances down at a chiseled and finely tuned 6-foot-6 professional athlete making his rounds on the court below. Jump shot after jump shot after jump shot falls, an orange Wilson basketball given the truest of flights from the hands of one Erron Maxey.
The Lake Elsinore, California, native and current Newton County resident enjoyed a productive four-year career at Providence College in Rhode Island, where he scored more than 1,300 career points, emerged as a team captain and led the Friars to a berth in the 2001 NCAA Tournament.
“What continues to drive my passion for basketball is the competition and the love that I have for the game.”Erron Maxey
Now 40, Maxey has spent the last 17 years traveling the globe while playing professionally, the sport of basketball having taken him further than he ever thought possible. He has suited up in 15 different countries—Finland, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina, Taiwan and China—and competed against some of the most accomplished players of his generation, from Baron Davis, Richard Hamilton and Andre Miller to Mike Bibby, Tayshaun Prince and Paul Pierce.
“When I think about it all, I have been truly blessed to be able to do what I do for a living,” Maxey said. “I’ve been able to have my college education paid for, as well as being able to travel the world and see places I’ve only seen in books. This experience has been priceless, and I thank God for the blessing I’ve been given.”
His resume glistens with achievement. Among Maxey’s individual highlights: He was named the National Basketball League’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2010 as a member of the Gold Coast Blaze in Australia and was chosen as a 2015 all-star in the Queensland Basketball League, where he averaged 26.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game for the Toowoomba Mountaineers. While he played briefly in the National Basketball Developmental League, he was never afforded the opportunity to play in the NBA. That dream died hard.
“I was in camp and had individual workouts with a few teams,” said Maxey, who currently competes in Wild Ball—the money tournament circuit in China. “It’s a business, and I understand that. Of course, it’s a disappointment to not play in the NBA. However, having the opportunity to still play the game that I love as a job, it isn’t that bad in my opinion.”
Nothing could keep Maxey from pursuing his goals, not even a life-altering health scare. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2014. The disorder causes inflammation to the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. It was a humbling blow that forced Maxey to take inventory.
“The first thing that came to mind was I had to learn and educate myself about Crohn’s disease,” he said. “I had heard about it, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. It was a blessing but a frightening doctor’s visit. The frightening part about the diagnosis was I knew that my life was going to change and I was going to have more challenges. The blessing was finally having answers to the problems that were going on.”
While Maxey keeps his symptoms in check with diet and medication, he has had to undergo four surgical procedures related to Crohn’s. He anticipates more.
“The type of Crohn’s disease I have is Perianal Crohn’s,” he said. “Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease. The surgeries are a part of having the type of Crohn’s that I have. There is no cure, but I do everything that I can to manage it.”
Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer from Crohn’s. The disease interrupted Maxey’s playing career for more than a year, and there were times when he wondered whether or not he might be done with basketball altogether.
“I believe if there’s a will, then there’s a way,” he said. “My career was derailed for 18 months, as I had to go through all of my initial Crohn’s treatments to discover exactly what type of Crohn’s I had. Once I finished all of these exams, then I had to find a team to sign me. It was a long and stressful period.”
Maxey moved to Newton County in 2007 to be closer to his parents, who relocated to Covington after they retired. Between stints overseas, he has served as a substitute teacher in the Newton County School System and worked part-time at Home Depot in order to make ends meet. Maxey appreciates what the area has to offer.
“I knew that between my brothers—Marcus is older, Kristopher is younger—and I, one of us should be close to my parents if they ever need any assistance,” he said. “It’s a quiet place where people can raise a family. I’ve lived in big cities around the world that are constantly busy 24 hours a day. However, living in a quiet and relaxing place like Newton County is a good change.”
Though he no longer sees eye to eye with Father Time, Maxey has designs on continuing to play professional basketball for the foreseeable future. He turned 40 on Dec. 6.
“What continues to drive my passion for basketball is the competition and the love that I have for the game,” Maxey said. “I plan on playing for another two years. Once I finish my career as a player, I would like to become a professional coach.”
For more information—including a list of physicians and support groups—on Crohn’s disease, visit the Chron’s & Colitis Foundation website at crohnscolitisfoundation.org.