NBA Hall of Famer, Slam Dunk Legend Discusses Disease that Haunts Him

By Nyia Curtis
Howard University News Service

Wilkins told the audience why it is important to take care of their health and know what is going with their bodies.

WASHINGTON -- Imagine feeling weak all of the time, constantly having to use the bathroom, experiencing problems with your vision and at the end of the day not knowing why all of these unusual things are happening.

That was life for NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, a nine-time All-star and now vice president of the Atlanta Hawks, his longtime team.

Wilkins would soon learn that diabetes, the disease that killed his father and his grandfather, was now threatening his life.

Wilkins, the man known as the “Human Highlight film and who once bested Michael Jordan in an NBA slam dunk contest, was at Howard University Hospital Wednesday to talk with Washington-area residents, hospital staff and Howard students about how he deals with a chronic, life-threatening disease that afflicts more than 25 million Americans.

“Once I found out I was diabetic, I quickly changed my diet,” he said.  “I got on medication, and I started working out. Diabetes runs in my family. I was determined that I would not turn out like my father or my grandfather.”

Wilkins told the audience why it is important to take care of their health and know what is going with their bodies.

“If you take care of yourself and make lifestyle change,s you can do anything you want to do,” he said. “Make the necessary changes for yourself so that way people in your family will make changes.

“How you overcome diabetes is by eliminating it one person at a time, because there is no cure for diabetes, but there are ways to manage it.”

The event ended with a brief question and answer segment. Wilkins was asked about his typical meal plan, what he does to stay in shape and how he figures out his portions of food to eat. He explained that he workouts on his treadmill, eats only poultry, eats smart and stays away from orange juice.

“I have been a diabetic for almost 12 years, and in those 12 years, I have not had orange juice,” he said.  “It has so many things mixed with it that are bad for you (as a diabetic).”

Gonnie Tolliver, a paramedic of the District of Columbia Fire Department, said she loved the event.

“My mom has diabetes and so do four of my uncles,” Tolliver, 42, said.  “So, I wanted to learn more about the disease.  I also would have never thought that an NBA player had diabetes.”

James Brown, 62, traveled from Harrisburg, N.C., to hear his friend of 11 years speak.

“I thought the event was good,” said Brown, who runs the Gregory B. Davis Foundation. “My foundation focuses on the areas of health care disparities and education initiatives. The objective is to take opportunities like this one and pass the information on to the rural areas, because they are so underserved.”

 

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