Dominique Wilkins was a two-time NBA Slam Dunk Champion and one of only three players to have his jersey retired by the Atlanta Hawks. He was inaugurated into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Yet at age 40, the basketball superstar was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
After retiring from the NBA only few years earlier, Wilkins was shocked because he never thought he'd have to deal with a chronic disease so early in his life. He said his mouth had always felt dry and he had to use the restroom more often than usual. The nine-time NBA All-Star said he went through denial for about a week - he thought he was in great shape. But his sugar level was 350 when it should have been under 120.
Wilkins knew the consequences of the disease. He lost both his father and grandfather to diabetes complications, so he decided to do everything in his power to take action and encourage others to do the same. The former player told himself that the disease would not sideline him from the things he loved to do.
Wilkins started taking diabetes medication, exercising more frequently and removing sugar products from his diet. He lost 37 pounds in two and half months.
"I feel better because of those lifestyles changes I have made. It's been a wonderful ride since then," he told Unite4Wellness.
Now Wilkins has served as the Hawks' Vice President of Basketball and is an active member in the diabetes community. He wants people to understand that they can live with diabetes if they make changes in their lives.
"Diabetes is not a curse … when I found out I decided not to let it overtake me," Wilkins told Houston News. "You must be positive and redirect your thinking."
The three components of a successful diabetes management plan, he said, are physical activity, a balanced diet and proper medicine if needed. Diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, is a team effort. With the help of doctors, nurses, nutritionists and family, individuals can stay in the game. However, the most important member of the diabetes dream team is you.
To learn about others living with diabetes visit our Voices of Diabetes page.