Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Bigger than Basketball.


What measures a legend? In the sport of Basketball it’s a man’s skills, his talent, and his achievements. What measures a hero? In the sport world or outside a hero is someone who is there for others and stands up against all adversity. A hero looks out for others, not just himself. A legend is cemented through time; a hero is found in moments that define. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a legend in the 70’s and 80’s in the NBA winning championships and re-defining the game. In 2009 the quiet centre became another hero who used his spotlight to speak out and raise the awareness of cancer, so others wouldn’t have to go through the same things as he had.

“I think that someone like me, who has a public presence, because people pay attention to what’s going on in my life, can help save some lives,”

Nobody wants to hear the word cancer. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, if it occurs in your life it’s a tragic and desperate situation. In the long and hard battle, hope and fighting are two ways to combat this dreaded disease. In November 2009 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar revealed he has leukemia, he showed positivity and endurance in the face of this terrible news.

Everyone knows the player, the legend the champion. Everyone knows about the infamous goggles, the infamous hook and the most points scored in league history. The man however has and still remains somewhat of an enigma. A guy who’s personal life was kept exactly that, personal.

So when Kareem decided to make public his condition it spoke volumes not only for Cap himself but for his commitment to not only fighting but raising awareness of this disease. I’m sure everyone would have respected Kareem’s wishes if he wanted his personal space on this one but instead Kareem changed his normal demeanour to help others.

Yes, there are people everyday who raise awareness about detecting cancer professional or otherwise, famous or not. That being said however everyone who contributes to raising awareness helps. He may not have been the only one but Kareem has still helping, period. From being a spokesman for the cancer medication company 'Novartis' to continuing his work past his clear diagnosis this year.

Awareness is especially helpful when distinguishing between different types of cancer and paying attention to those that are rare as well as common. Kareem suffered from Chronic myelogenous leukemia. A rare form of cancer. It starts inside an individual’s bone marrow. The cancer then grows from the cells in the bone marrow that produce white blood cells. The cancerous white blood cells that are produced can take years to grow, so detection of this disease is usually discovered early. Early detection helps sufferers cope better, all whilst maintaining their lifestyles as best they can.

As Kareem told people its important for sufferers to seek help from a specialist and make taking medication, receiving checkups and making monitoring a regular, scheduled thing. Jabbar may have been terrified upon hearing this news but in managing and enduring the problem of having leukemia he told himself and other sufferers one vital important thing,

“It does not have to be a death sentence”.

In speaking out about this disease Kareem has helped raise understanding but also offered hope to fellow sufferers. He has done this by showing confidence and a strong will and mindset in the face of severe adversity. Seeing someone in the public eye going through what they are with such resolve may ease sufferer’s fears. If people look up to a role model like Kareem at the very least it can help make things a little easier. That’s a duty that Kareem not only feels he wants to do but knows he need to do. This is a true leader back at work.

Yes we do live in a world where regular people who do great work are often unfortunately ignored whereas sportsmen and celebrities are placed on an often time undeserved, over the top pedestal. It is also evident that any cancer sufferers helping and aiding not only themselves but others are heroes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular person or your name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You’re a help to other sufferers no matter who you are. That being said though with this world we live in being celebrity driven it is vitally important for those who aren’t overlooked to reach and speak out for those who need their help.

This is where Cap has been using his star power for good. A lesson a lot of celebrities could do with swatting up on. This isn’t another one of those cringe worthy moments where a celebrity presents a large cheque to a charity (which obviously is still a great help) on the eve of their album or film release. Kareem has made his battle with cancer public so people in his predicament can be aware of early detection and can also help feel a sense of optimism and faith.

This is where abusing your celebrity is actually beneficial and of great service. This big man’s step out the shadows and into the public eye is done for the help of others alone and not his own personal gain. Kareem is expecting nothing in return, just the hope that this big gesture could be even at the very least the smallest bit of aid for others.

Magic Johnson turned his devastating news of testing positive for HIV into a mission of raising awareness, prevention and coping with the disease. Magic did just as much good to this cause as he did on the basketball court. Jabbar has followed his old running mate’s suit. Kareem has achieved so many milestones on the hardwood that are worthy of all the articles that have come before this one. Just like his former teammate with his latest move however he sought to achieve as much good as he can here in the face of this disease.

Kareem has watched a close friend an uncle and a grandfather lose the battle to cancer. He has seen his father fight through it. With this tragically unfortunate history in mind to still show determination when diagnosed himself, coupled with his dedication to helping others afflicted shows a great strength. A strength that is attributed to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the man, not the basketball player.

This is what its all about. This situation Kareem had made public was not done in order to just make the news, instead it was done so Kareem could serve as a spokesman for a leukemia condition that is rare and can often be overlooked. Now almost two years later-with his cancer at a minimum and a clean bill of health-if Kareem has accomplished some good from his devastating situation. It was worth him coming out of his private world and sharing a little bit about himself, worth so much more than accolades, scoring titles or championships. Kareem understands that and therefore was and is prepared to sacrifice his long cultivated publicity shy life in order to do this. Even with his cancer at a minimum Kareem is still maximising the awareness and as we celebrate his good news, he looks out for others like he did his teammates on the court. He really has given us himself. That is something we can all tip our caps to.

"My cancer right now is at an absolute minimum."

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