NBA Hall of Famer Diagnosed with Amyloidosis, Decides to Help Fellow Retirees

A story published on ESPN.com, and written by Jackie MacMullan, details NBA Hall of Fame inductee Nate “Tiny” Archibald‘s diagnosis of the rare disease amyloidosis. Amyloidosis occurs when a substance called amyloid builds up in your organs. In Archibald’s case it is affecting his heart.

Amyloid is produced in your bone marrow. It is an abnormal protein that can affect the heart, kidneys, digestive tract, spleen, liver and nervous system. Abnormal proteins that are produced in your bone marrow, amyloids can be deposited in any tissue or organ, and when severe, can lead to organ failure.

Archibald, who played 14 years in the NBA, was diagnosed with amyloidosis in December of 2016 at a free screening offered by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). The free screening was offered as a part of a brand new cooperative agreement between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and NBA players to offer health insurance to retired players who played at least 3 years in the NBA.

Outside of the normal aches and pains for his age, and as a retired professional basketball player, Archibald didn’t anticipate any major health revelations. He prides himself that his current body weight and measurements are close to is playing days.

At first, it was hard to come to terms with his amyloidosis diagnosis. It is incurable and doesn’t even have an effective treatment that helps. Archibald says, even though he knows his heart could go out at anytime, he isn’t ready for that and wants to be a round for a long time to come. During this time he also committed himself to helping promote the league’s screening program and helping get retirees to attend to the screenings and get some help.

“Everyone around me kept dying, And they were all younger than me.” — Nate Archibald

In a game where your “stats” meant everything, the most important statistics for retired players, their health, raised alarms for Archibald. For African-American retired basketball players, the numbers from the NBPA’s free screenings were alarming:
  1. 35% of retirees between the ages of 40 & 59 had high blood pressure
  2. Almost 50% of retired player 40 years of age and above were prediabetic
  3. Over 30% of screened retirees were obese
  4. 20% of retirees over the age of 60 had diabetes

Archibald said one of his missions is to help his fellow retired NBA players take advantage of the health care that is being offered to them. It’s not been easy. Many of the players respond that they feel well and don’t show up.

At a recent event, Archibald said that over 70 players were invited by email less than 10 showed up. He added that some of them don’t want to know if they’re dealing with a serious disease. For his part, he’s glad he knows about his amyloidosis.


Donald Blake

Donald Blake

Donald Blake has a BS in Communication Studies. He has a lengthy tenure in the healthcare, media and education fields. He is dedicated to improving the lives of those with rare diseases through his knowledge of healthcare and communications.

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