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Report: Keyontae Johnson eligible for $5 million insurance payout

To claim that windfall, though, Johnson will likely have to admit his hoop dream is dashed.

Florida v Nevada Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Florida Gators forward Keyontae Johnson could collect $5 million from an insurance policy taken out in advance of his anticipated professional career in July 2020, according to a report from Mark Long of the Associated Press — but he would likely have to give up any aspirations of continuing his basketball career to do it.

Long reports, citing “two people with knowledge of Keyontae Johnson’s situation” who spoke on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns, that Johnson is mulling trying to pursue medical clearance to play professionally or opting to trigger a policy that went into effect in July 2020 — some five months before his shocking collapse during a timeout as Florida played against Florida State began a saga that saw him spend nights in hospitals in Tallahassee and Gainesville.

That policy, as Long writes, may have been obtained through the NCAA’s Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurancy Program, which extends the opportunity to receive insurance against possible loss of value of their professional careers to athletes competing in several major sports — football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and men’s ice hockey. Johnson, as a men’s basketball player projected to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft, could have been eligible for up to $10 million in coverage through that program, which would also have offered Johnson a competitive loan to pay for the policy.

While working through the NCAA’s program would likely have been the path of least resistance to obtaining insurance, Johnson and/or his family could also have taken out insurance on him privately, or done so through both avenues.

And one of Long’s sources says — as has been widely assumed — that Johnson is unlikely to be cleared to play for Florida by the Gators’ doctors this season, meaning that his Florida playing career likely ended on that fateful afternoon in Tallahassee and that any future playing career would probably come in the form of attempting to make the NBA.

But it does not take long, if one follows Johnson’s Instagram, for clips of him shooting or dunking in the present day to pop up on his story. And when Johnson hosted a basketball camp in Gainesville this summer, he told the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson “I’m for sure going to play basketball again,” suggesting the desire to ball still burns inside him. (That report also suggested Johnson has been instructed not to run, jump, or participate in cardiovascular exercise by doctors, which dunking would seem to violate — but it’s hard to imagine that would matter much if Johnson’s medical clearance simply never comes.)

Johnson has received first-class care since his collapse, and the revelation that his condition was not caused by COVID-19 — shared with the public in February 2021 — brought much relief to the sporting world, which had been waiting with bated breath to hear about whether what was reported last December to be a diagnosis of acute myocarditis had any link to Johnson’s reported summer bout with the disease.

However, the lack of a public refutation of a diagnosis of myocarditis in the February statement issued by Florida on behalf of Johnson and his family led me to write then that:

It is possible to view the full sum of what has been reported and revealed about Johnson to be that he tested positive for and had COVID-19 over the summer, collapsed during that fateful December game due to myocarditis unrelated to COVID-19, and is now recovering from his collapse and a diagnosis of myocarditis.

Often, as the Mayo Clinic’s page on it notes, myocarditis can resolve itself on its own or be treatable with medication. But severe cases can cause permanent damage — and it obviously seems as though Johnson, now almost a year removed from his last basketball game, had a severe case of something.

Given his stated desire and Long’s reporting that he can make progress toward a professional career without completely violating his insurance policy, it would seem the most likely path forward for Johnson is at least giving a professional career a shot, which will no doubt require finding a doctor or doctors who will clear him for it.

Given what seems increasingly like a medical reality that he will never be able to play basketball at the peak of his powers without risking another catastrophe, though, it also seems likely that Johnson is ultimately going to become a millionaire — but by admitting the death of his first or most precious professional dream, rather than realizing it.

Eligibility for a significant insurance payout is a silver lining to take from one of the darkest days in Florida Gators history, and one that everyone who cares for Johnson — who was a tremendous basketball player for Florida, who is just about as beloved as any athlete to pass through Gainesville in my lifetime has been, and who is sure to receive thunderous applause when he graduates, as he is scheduled to do in the spring — can take solace in.

A silver lining is still far, far less glorious than sunshine.

And Keyontae Johnson deserves sunshine.