Dominique Wilkins talks diabetes diagnosis that came after NBA retirement


dominique-wilkins-diabetesIt was toward the end of his Hall-of-Fame basketball career that Dominique Wilkins saw the warning signs of fatigue, vision problems and extra weight but chose to ignore them.

Wilkins had lost both his father and grandfather to diabetes and didn’t want to believe the same fate had befallen him.

“I knew somebody in my family was going to come up with diabetes, but I had no idea it would be me,” Wilkins said, DailyProgress reported.

“When you’re a world-class athlete, you think you’re invincible and nothing could ever happen to you. It’s not until life slows down that you realize you’re more like everybody else.”

Wilkins’ diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes came shortly after his retirement from the NBA, more than 14 years ago.

Today, the 53-year-old likes to talk about his plight, which he considers a “blessing.”

“The reason why I say that is that diabetes forces me to look at my health in a different way,” Wilkins said.

On Thursday evening, the former Atlanta Hawk, whose nickname was “The Human Highlight Film,” spoke at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library downtown.

Wilkins told an audience that after learning he had diabetes, he completely changed his diet, exercise and lifestyle, in addition to getting on the proper medication.

“I decided I’m not going to let this disease do what it did to my father and grandfather,” Wilkins said, “and I got on a mission.”

Gary Johnson, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2001, was one of a couple dozen people on hand for Wilkins’ talk. Johnson said his biggest takeaway was how important it is to stay disciplined with the disease.

“You’ve got to take care of your health,” Johnson said, “because if you’ve got a family, you’ve got to be there for them. It means a lot to your family, a lot to your kids that you take care of itself.”

Wilkins’ stepson, Isaiah, is set to play basketball for the University of Virginia next fall after signing his letter of intent on Tuesday. Wilkins said continuing to play hoops with Isaiah and other is his main source of exercise.

Barbara Martin, a diabetes educator from Martha Jefferson Hospital, called Wilkins’ message “inspirational.”

“I wish more people had been here to hear it,” she said, “but I think it’s great when somebody of that stature talks about dealing with diabetes day to day.”

Mary Perry, a diabetes educator from the UVa Medical Center, admires Wilkins’ fight.

“There was something in him, he’s got kind of this determined spirit that said, ‘This is not going to be my story,’” Perry said.

At the end of his talk, Wilkins – who ranks 11th all-time on the NBA career scoring list – fielded a few questions about the NBA. When asked who was the better player – Michael Jordan or LeBron James – he didn’t hesitate.

“LeBron is good in this era, in this era,” Wilkins said. “There will never be another Michael Jordan. Ever. How many guys do you know that can win three championships, retire, play another sport [baseball] and then win three more championships?

“LeBron is King James in this era. In our era, he would have been LeBron James.”

Dominique Wilkins played 15 years in the NBA, earned his spot on the All-Star team 9 times. He holds career averages of 24.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 35.5 mpg in 1074 (started 995) NBA games.

He scored 26,668 points in his career, playing for Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic.

Currently, Wilkins is the vice president of basketball operations with the Atlanta Hawks and is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame.

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