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NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar revealed a recent battle with prostate cancer in a lengthy piece for a medical website highlighting the health risks faced by Black people.
The six-time NBA champion and 19-time NBA All-Star wrote the essay for WebMD.
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“My life is at risk. Not just because I’m 73 with the usual annoying aches and pains that accompany age, but because I’m tall and I’m Black. At 7 feet, 2 inches, I’m statistically more prone to blood clots, lower back and hip problems, higher risk of cancer, especially prostate cancer, atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm disorder), and a shorter life span in general. Being Black means I’m more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart problems, obesity, cancer, and a shorter life in general. Yup, tall people and Black people have shorter life expectancies. So far, in keeping with these statistical risks, I’ve had prostate cancer, leukemia, and heart bypass surgery,” he wrote.
The 73-year-old wrote that he’s been given better health care than most Blacks because of his celebrity and because his sons work in the health care profession.
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He also tried to clarify what the Black Lives Matter movement meant in regards to life. He wrote, “The backlash in which white people proclaimed All Lives Matter clearly had no understanding of the issue. Blacks weren’t saying that Black lives mattered more, they were emphasizing that, the way the system works now, Black Lives Matter … Less.”
He added: “It’s hard to feel valuable to a society that doesn’t value your health or life.”
Abdul-Jabbar said he became a UCLA Health Ambassador to reach out to the Black community and give them the proper medical and health information “that could save their lives.”
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“But even with all of the positive efforts my son and others might be making, the sad truth is, I could have written this article 50 years ago. It’s as if the Black community is trapped in ‘Groundhog Day’ in which every day we fight racism, prove it exists, see gains, and then wake up the next day to all the same obstacles,” he wrote. “In the movie, Bill Murray escaped the cycle by becoming selfless, caring more about others’ needs than his greedy desires. That’s how America will escape this self-destructive behavior. The future of equity for Black Americans starts with physical and mental health, and as long as they are at the end of the line for services, true equity can’t happen. Black lives have to matter in every aspect of American society if they are to thrive.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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