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NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar penned an essay for WebMD published Wednesday, and shared — seemingly for the first time — that he he’s fought prostate cancer, leukemia, and had heart bypass surgery in the past.
The piece, titled “Black Lives Matter,” aims to shine a light on the way Black people are left behind by the US health system. Despite revealing he was diagnosed in 2008 with leukemia, Abdul-Jabbar made a point of saying his fame has afforded him health protections that many other Black people have not received.
“I’ve been fortunate because my celebrity has brought me enough financial security to receive excellent medical attention,” he wrote. No one wants an NBA legend dying on their watch. Imagine the Yelp reviews.
“Though [Black Americans] are most in need of medical services, they actually receive the lowest level.”
The 73-year-old highlighted the massive racial disparity of the coronavirus pandemic as part of the problem, as Black people have a death rate 3.6 times higher than white people according to the piece.
Despite the efforts of many Americans on behalf of the Black community — including his son Amir, a surgeon — Abdul-Jabbar knows equity won’t truly be achieved without reshaping the medical space.
“The future of equity for Black Americans starts with physical and mental health, and as long as they are at the end of the line for services, true equity can’t happen,” he said. “Black lives have to matter in every aspect of American society if they are to thrive.”