NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has rare form of leukemia

By BEN WALKER, AP National Writer Modified: November 10, 2009 at 6:56 am •  Published: November 10, 2009
Advertisement
;

NEW YORK — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is being treated for a rare form of leukemia, and the basketball great said his prognosis is encouraging.

The NBA's all-time leading scorer was diagnosed last December with chronic myeloid leukemia, he told The Associated Press on Monday.

The 62-year-old Abdul-Jabbar said his doctor didn't give any guarantees, but informed him: "You have a very good chance to live your life out and not have to make any drastic changes to your lifestyle."

Abdul-Jabbar is taking an oral medication for the disease. He is a paid spokesman for the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, which makes a drug that treats the illness.

Citing the way Los Angeles Lakers teammate Magic Johnson brought awareness to HIV, Abdul-Jabbar said he wants to do the same for his form of blood cancer, which can be fatal if left untreated.

"I've never been a person to share my private life. But I can help save lives," he said at a midtown Manhattan conference room. "It's incumbent on someone like me to talk about this."

Abdul-Jabbar became concerned last year after feeling odd sensations. He went for tests at UCLA, where he dominated college basketball in the late 1960s, winning three straight NCAA championships from 1967-69.

"I was getting hot flashes and sweats on a regular basis," he said. "That's not normal, even for my age."

An exam showed his white blood cell count was "sky high" and a doctor quickly diagnosed his condition. At first, all Abdul-Jabbar heard was the word "leukemia."

"I was scared," he said. "I thought it was all the same. I thought it could mean I have a month to live."