Denver Nuggets swingman Andre Iguodala was the pride of Lanphier High in Springfield and the prep star who went onto to basketball fame at Arizona and eventually the NBA. But he wasn’t the deadliest shooter in his peer group.
One of Iguodala’s friends from rival Litchfield H.S., a fellow named Mike McGraw, held that distinction, bolstered by his 208 3-pointers and 1,473 points. And yes, thanks to a gym teacher back in elementary school, McGraw’s nickname was “Quick Draw.”
Iguodala knew another side of McGraw, though. “He had Type 1 diabetes,” the Nuggets player said in a phone interview Monday. “I saw him giving himself insulin and doing the finger poke. He was always on top of his stuff. But he’s lived a pretty healthy lifestyle, so he’s been doing fine.”
McGraw went on to play at Illinois Wesleyan and he’s back home now, part of McGraw Enterprises. “His parents own about every McDonald’s in Springfield,” Iguodala said.
Diabetes – and a sensible intake of fast food – were on Iguodala’s mind Monday in his role as an NBA ambassador for “Dribble to Stop Diabetes.” Along with Indiana’s Danny Granger and WNBA star Tamika Catchings, Iguodala is working with the American Diabetes Association and pharmaceutical company Sanofi US on an awareness campaign.
He, Granger and Catchings each participated in public-service announcements – which can be seen on the Web at www.dribbletostopdiabetes.com – to encourage fans to eat right and stay active to prevent and manage Type 2 diabetes and the complications that can result from it.
Iguodala said his family, including one grandmother, has been touched by the disease and several cousins are considered to be at risk. “So it’s easy for me to have that connection,” he said. “It’s something we can prevent. There’s 26 million Americans who have it, and only about 10 percent are Type 1. The other 90 percent can watch their diet and be active.”
Several professional athletes have dealt with diabetes during their playing days, including MLB’s Ron Santo of the Chicago Cubs, NHL star Bobby Clarke, NFL quarterback Jay Cutler and the PGA’s Scott Verplank. Past and present NBA players include Chris Dudley, Adam Morrison and Gary Forbes.
The ADA estimates, though, that seven million American have the disease but aren’t aware of it. Then there are those who are heading for trouble if they ignore the lifestyle tweaks that can mean so much.
“People ask what message I have for kids and it’s simple: Just go outside,” Iguodala said. “When I was growing up, there wasn’t too much technology. There weren’t so many channels that we were glued to on TV. We had to go outside and create our games. Kids had the habit of being active and exercising, just enjoying the fresh air.”
Then there’s the diet side of the equation. Nothing against the McGraws’ McDonald’s empire, but too much of a good thing can be just that: too much.
“They make documentaries like ‘Fast Food Nation,'” Iguodala said. “The food our kids are eating in schools, the vending machines kids go to a lot, the portions of food that American restaurants are serving that are bigger than anywhere else in the world – it’s kind of crazy. All those things play a huge part in this deadly disease.”
Fans, by the way, shouldn’t feel too bad about having poor eating habits. Iguodala said he sees it all the time among the finely conditioned athletes who fly up and down the courts of the NBA, Particularly among the young ones.
“Most guys, it’s their first time through the rodeo and they’ve got to figure some things out,” he said. “As far as where to go eat, what to where, what time to wake up, when to get to practice. A lot of times they’re trying to do too many things at once and they’re eating bad food.
“On the rookies and the young guys, I’m pretty tough. We’ve gotten into some heated arguments about what they eat. They call me, like, ‘the old dad.’ I never had the problem – I was always able to find a chef at a decent price, even as a rookie. But it’s just watching what you put into your body. Especially as pro athletes, at the highest level, what we put into our bodies plays a huge part in our performance.”
Not to mention their present and future well-being. Type 1 diabetes used to be called “juvenile onset” and Type 2 was known as “adult onset,” but those labels have been set aside because either type can begin at any age. That’s what “Dribble to Stop Diabetes” is addressing, as part of the NBA/WNBA FIT program, right through All-Star Weekend at the 2013 NBA Jam Session in Houston. Teams in the NBA, WNBA and D-League will have information available as part of an in-arena campaign.