Hansel Emmanuel Donato Domínguez made the Life Christian Academy high school basketball team roster. Now, he has his first Division 1 offer, courtesy of Tennessee State University. He is not the first basketball player with one arm to gain popularity and success. Zach Hodskins played college ball for the University of Florida for two years, before trying his luck in Germany with Cottbus.
It got me thinking: we haven’t seen a one-armed basketball player in the NBA. But it won’t be long now, I’m sure. Hansel and Zach have already proven that players with one arm can compete at a high level; they should be taken seriously. Don’t put them in the team just to be made a spectacle of oddity, in the same league as circus performers eating fire and swords. They’re basketball players, just like everyone else.
I think the NBA will see the signing of a player with one arm as a positive development, a good step in the right direction, in the time of inclusivity, equity, and opportunity. That all quarters will definitely be accepting of this kind of development is the reason why I don’t see this as the fork in the road that will challenge and transform the NBA and professional team sports. Something else is on the horizon, something that can either be empowering or divisive.
Here is where I think it gets interesting: what if a person with one arm playing for the NBA decides to wear prosthetics? Before you say, “I’m sure it is not a big deal”, think about where this road leads and the doors it will open.
Imagine a lumbering 7 footer who spends most of the time on the bench hobbled by knee injuries opting for a prosthetic leg. It could finally remove the knee injury in the equation, and the prosthetic legs can even make him run faster, jump higher, and yes, even grow taller. Two new legs and he becomes a different person, and what he can now do changes his role in the team and his value in the league.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Bionic contact lenses, according to Science Alert are “three times better than 20/20—the universal standard for normal vision” and that “it can shift focus from close range objects to objects any distance away faster than the human eye is able to.” Can you imagine how much point guards and wing players will improve with this level of vision? If I am an NBA player and I want this surgically implanted after an accident that damaged my eyes, will the league allow it?
Let’s go one step further: imagine a technology that connects the bionic lens with the prosthetic arm(s), automatically calibrating to give you the optimal shooting form in any given situation (think Vegeta’s Geiger Counter and the Winter Soldier’s cybernetic arm combined). That, I guess, is how you make next-generation super shooters, and with it, the rise of more evil villains, too: imagine sports betting and game-fixing syndicates employing the services of hackers to disrupt the technology and impact technology-aided performance vulnerable to cyber-attack. You are about to attempt a game-winning jump shot when suddenly, your bionic eyes and arms shut down and reboot.
It will become a complicated world without existing norms and precedents, and a new line in the sand should be drawn to include rules, laws, and ethical guidelines. I won’t envy the man or woman that has to make the decision on the matter of normalizing the use of human enhancement technology. If I say yes, I have to deal with those who think this creates an unfair advantage. I have to defend the decision against accusations that this is enabling the elite rich, which is a good point; expect human enhancement technology to be costly and not something everyone can afford. I will help decide whether or not it is ok for perfectly healthy athletes to have parts of their bodies replaced and enhanced. If I say no, I have to deal with being accused of having prejudicial disposition, with being labelled as close-minded, and with being branded as the enemy of technology, the future, and the forward-thinkers.
And let’s assume the practice of athletes undergoing human enhancement finally becomes acceptable, I’m sure the proponents of performance-enhancing drugs are not far behind: if you can alter bone and sinew, why not blood and the body’s chemical constitution? For years, they have been vilified. Now, they’d think that vindication has finally arrived.
Considering the rate our technology is progressing, it is difficult to simply dismiss these possibilities as mere science and speculative fiction.
I must admit that this feels like falling into the rabbit hole, but that’s where the offseason will take you, after the news of free agency, transfers, and new signings have died down. And I’d rather find myself engrossed in this topic, rather than come across one more clickbait Internet gossip masking as sports news—such insufferable inane content deserving of an unenviable elevated status in the ranks of idiocy.
The NBA—and every professional sports league—is a living organism that continues to evolve. How technology can alter the human body (and how accepting society is of this transformation) could be the first big evolutionary leap that will dramatically change sports as we know it.
I’ll see everyone at the crossroads. I want to know where this road will take us, and what will become of us once this finally comes to pass.