Famed basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar discussed his early athletic career and late-in-life cancer diagnosis during an interview Saturday with News Center 7’s Adam Marshall.
The interview — held on stage during the Premier Health Collaborating Against Cancer Symposium at the Dayton Convention Center — lasted about 40 minutes before an audience of approximately 500.
Abdul-Jabbar, whose history with Dayton extends back to the 1967 NCAA tournament title he notched for UCLA over the Dayton Flyers, talked about the NBA and his relationship with late UCLA coach John Wooden, as well.
The following is an abbreviated and edited selection of Abdul-Jabbar’s interview with Marshall.
Marshall: What’s something you would like us to know about John Wooden?
Abdul-Jabbar: He was much more concerned about us graduating than he was about us winning games, which was very important to him, but he wanted us to graduate. That was it. He wanted us to graduate and learn a few things about how to be good fathers, good parents, good husbands.
M: There’s a lot of money involved in the NBA now … what are your thoughts on the current NBA?
A-J: I think the current NBA has done a great job of making basketball popular around the world. … Athletes from all around the world want to come to the United States and play basketball, and that never happened before.
M: Do you think the current players are better than the players when you came through?
A-J: I don’t think the players are better. I think they are every bit as good. Great players come when they come. Elgin Baylor would have been able to play in this era, and LeBron James would have been able to play in Elgin’s era.
M: When were you diagnosed with cancer?
A-J: I was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago. The way that it happened for me is I started having night sweats and at first I dismissed it. I thought it was something that happens to you when you get older.
M: What has life been like since your diagnosis?
A-J: I’ve been to a number of patient summits and it’s been good. Because by talking to people and doctors who treat the people who have the type of cancer that I have (chronic myeloid leukemia) you find out what’s going on and you’re able to do something about it.