Interviewed and written by Aaron Robinson – Editor
As the statue of NBA legend Dominique Wilkins stands tall in the main entrance of the Philips Arena, the Hall of Famer continues to stand tall and leap high with his calling to educate the masses that are affected with the disease we recognize as diabetes. Shortly after his astonishing NBA career, Wilkins was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and since then has been raising awareness in various communities. He has teamed up with the world’s leading diabetes care company, Novo Nordisk, to educate those living with diabetes about the importance of diabetes management and creating a Diabetes Dream Team. Within his countless community efforts, Wilkins also works closely with the Center for Health Transformation, JDRF, and his foundation, The Dominique Wilkins Foundation, where he is active with local and national charity endeavors when it comes to health.
Over the course of Wilkins’ basketball career, he earned infinite awards, achievements, honors and recognitions. Still vital in the NBA, he is a color analyst for the Atlanta Hawks games and acts as the Hawks Vice President of Basketball, where he advises various areas of management within the franchise.
I had the opportunity to speak with the 9-time All-Star Dominique Wilkins while he was headed to the American Diabetes Association’s Expo in Chicago. “The greatest dunker of all times” shares an abundance of knowledge, helpful tips and advice, as well as gives encouraging words for those diagnosed with diabetes. I am honored to introduce to you the “Human Highlight Film”, Dominique Wilkins.
Aaron Robinson: While playing in the NBA, did you receive any symptoms prior to being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?
Dominique Wilkins: No, it was a year after retirement when I found out I was diabetic. When I was a player, I think because I trained so much, it was hard to detect.
Aaron: When you became diagnosed with type 2 diabetes did you have to make a lifestyle change or did your lifestyle basically remain the same?
Dominique: I had to make a lifestyle change When I was playing I ate anything I wanted, but I was always training so I just burned those calories off and didn’t pay close attention to my diet or how my body felt. When I retired, I wasn’t training anymore, but I was still eating the same foods – so my doctor told me one thing, he said ‘you have to make a lifestyle change right now’! I changed my diet, started exercising and I got on medication.
Aaron: Living with diabetes, are you still able to live a healthy, normal and productive life?
Dominique: I put it this way, I feel better now than I did 17 years ago. Because I made that lifestyle change. One of the things that really helped me is my partnership with Novo Nordisk. It’s been a wonderful relationship. It has given me a platform to talk about diabetes nationally, and to continue talking about my own bout with diabetes. When my pill wasn’t getting me to my goal, I worked with my doctor to find a treatment that was right for me. Now I talk with others about understanding when certain medications are not getting you to your goal, you need to find a treatment plan that works for you. That’s why I am speaking at the American Diabetes Association EXPO so that people can learn about healthy options and diabetes management. One of those healthy options can be found on our website, DiabetesDreamTeam.com, which gives people the opportunity to learn how to build their own “Dream Team” through diet, exercise and education.
Aaron: What are some of the factors that you stress at your lectures that people may not know about when it comes to preventing and living with diabetes?
Dominique: I think the thing that is most important is getting screened, because you have to get screened to see where your health is, to see if you are a person that is prone to diabetes or if you have an elevated sugar level. Screenings tell you if something is wrong and how you can fix it. That’s the thing I stress more than anything. Secondly, when you make a lifestyle change, that doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym and become some muscle man (laugh). Just get yourself physically moving. People do different things as far as physical activity to keep them healthy. You have to find out what’s comfortable for you.
Aaron: What words of encouragement would you share with people in hopes of battling or beating this disease?
Dominique: I give them the life experience that I went through with my father and grandfather both dying from diabetes. I’ve seen the hardships in a family affected by diabetes. I share my story and say look, you don’t want this to be you, and you don’t want this to be someone in your family. So, don’t wait for something bad to happen before you act. Be proactive.
Aaron: If you were diagnosed with this disease while in the NBA, do you think it would have impacted your performance? If so, what advice would you give to athletes that currently have this disease?
Dominique: I don’t know if it would have affected my performance. I do think it’s important that everyone – athlete or not – pays attention to their body and gets screened for diabetes. As a professional athlete, you have access to a team of health experts and you should take advantage of it. For others, you should talk to your doctor about a diabetes screening and you can visit DiabetesDreamTeam.com to download my “Coaches’ Clipboard” that has tips for creating your own “Dream Team” of experts.
Aaron: Outside of speaking, and since retiring from the NBA, what are some of the things you have enjoyed partaking in?
Dominique: Outside of the NBA my calling is healthcare and diabetes and particularly with Novo Nordisk. That’s my calling – having the opportunity to help educate people about living with diabetes. I’ve also launched my own brand of signature basketball courts with CBA Sports. That’s been a big thing for me that I’m very passionate about.
Aaron: You are involved in many community initiatives. Do you have anything currently new and exciting going on with The Dominique Wilkins Foundation?
Dominique: I’m still heavily involved in the community – sit on a couple of organizational boards. I also support some of the major foundations like Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Women’s Sports Foundation, the American Heart Association, and the National Endocrinology Association. I also support several different charities – Big Brother and Big Sister, and also Special Olympics.
Aaron: Before we close the interview, would you like to share anything that we haven’t discussed?
Dominique: I definitely encourage people to make changes, make a lifestyle change and work with their doctors to find and stick to a treatment plan that works for them. I think that’s the biggest thing for us here.
Aaron: Thank you for your time Mr. Wilkins.
Dominique: I appreciate this man! Thank you.
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Last modified: April 24, 2023