One day in March, Jazz center Greg Ostertag answered the phone to hear his 26-year-old sister, Amy Hall, crying hysterically. Hall, who has battled juvenile diabetes since age six, had learned that the disease had caused her kidneys to fail; she needed a transplant to survive. As her only sibling, Ostertag, 29, was the best match. "There was no choice" he said. "I didn't even consult my wife. It's my sister. I need to do it."
Ostertag will donate the kidney on June 27 at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. While kidney transplant surgery is relatively safe—a healthy donor has only a 1 in 10,000 chance of a fatal complication—there is the risk of infection, pneumonia and other side effects. "He could be giving up everything to do this," says Hall of Ostertag, "yet I don't look at him as a hero. I look at him as a brother who's doing it because he loves me."
Players have competed in the NBA with only one kidney, including Spurs forward Malik Rose, who had a kidney removed when he was a baby because it wasn't growing properly, and former journeyman forward Pete Chilcutt, who was born with only one. (In '99 then Spurs forward Sean Elliott, who suffered from a chronic kidney disorder, received a transplant from his brother. He played 87 games afterward.) Barring complications, Ostertag should report to camp the same player he always was—meaning the player whom Jazz fans have maligned for soft play during his seven years in Utah. Last season Ostertag, who has two years left on a six-year, $39 million contract, averaged a career-low 3.3 points. "My biggest fear is that they put my kidney in her and her body rejects it," he says. "Me, I know I'll be back. I'll be back to drive my wife and kids crazy. I'll be back to cause [Jazz coach] Jerry Sloan's hair to get grayer."