Abdul-Jabbar Opens Up About His Cancer

NBA great discusses his personal battle with NBC New York

By DeMarco Morgan
|  Tuesday, Nov 10, 2009  |  Updated 6:24 PM EDT
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Basketball Legend Fights Rare Form of Cancer

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went public with his cancer diagnosis Tuesday morning.

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Basketball Legend Fights Rare Form of Cancer

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talks about his battle with Leukemia
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Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a legend in his own right. He's scored the most points in NBA history, won six MVP awards, and blocked the most shots.

“I had a great career,” said Harlem-native Abdul-Jabbar in an interview with NBC New York earlier today. “I can't complain about that."

But there is be one ball that the now retired 7-foot-tall gentle giant would not be able to easily bounce, some 20 years later after his last professional rebound.

Cancer.

“A lot of people find out that they have a situation and they think everything is over," he said.

The 62-year-old is finally opening up a year after being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a rare form of cancer.

“I think people in my position can use their celebrity for a lot of good to educate people about what's going on."

The cancer, also known as CML, attacks the blood cells and can cause an enlargement of the spleen, liver and other organs.

A total of five thousand people will be diagnosed with CML this year.

It’s a disease that can be fatal without treatment.

“It's frightening,” Abdul-Jabbar answered. “You're wondering what's going on."

The native New Yorker says he visits a doctor regularly to stay on top of the cancer.

His treatment comes in the form of a daily pill -- made by Novartis, the company he's currently a paid spokesperson for.

As for side affects, patients can experience anything from fatigue to diarrhea.

 But there’s no loss of hair.

“This disease doesn't have to be a death warrant," he proclaimed.

 Today, you'll find the now author giving back. He's helping coach the Los Angeles Lakers, producing documentaries, while at the same time tapping his size 16 to the beat of Jazz.

“I just learned how to fill my iPod in the past year," he joked.

 It’s another sign that no matter how big or small the goal may be, nothing's out of reach...when there's hope.

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