Shaquille O’Neal: “After 19 Years In the NBA, I Have a New Target”

Basketball legend takes on diabetes in the Black community. 

Posted: 04/08/2013 10:08 AM EDT

“It’s alarming,” says [Shaquille] O’Neal. “We need to come together to try to help prevent the disease and stay healthy.”

Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and another 79 million Americans are considered pre-diabetic, according to the American Diabetes Association. Approximately two-thirds of diabetics eventually die from heart disease or a stroke.

For O’Neal, the fight against diabetes is personal. He was drawn to finding a solution after watching close family members struggle to manage the disease.

He’s now focusing his energy on preventing people from developing diabetes in the first place.

“Childhood obesity is getting worse,” he says. “People need to know the problem isn’t going to go away unless we take control now.”

O’Neal spent years taking flak about his fluctuating weight throughout his 19-year NBA career. But the self-proclaimed “freak of nature” says there’s always been a method to his madness.

“(Critics) would automatically say, ‘He’s out of shape,’ but I wanted to just relax during the summer, hang out with the family, and then work my way into basketball-playing shape,” says O’Neal. “I’ve never been obese. Even now my body fat is only 13 percent.”

Today, the 7-foot tall O’Neal says his current weight stays around 350, “plus 10,” but admits it’s not easy to stay at a healthy weight and reduce his risk of developing diabetes.

Read more about Shaq and diabetes awareness at BlackDoctor.Org.

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(Photo:  Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images)

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