Scott Scanlon - Refresh Editor
I got a chance to sit down with Dominique Wilkins Wednesday morning, mostly to talk about what he eats, because the NBA Hall-of-Famer was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about a year after his retirement in 1999 and was in Buffalo at the invitation of Independent Health, to talk about exercise and healthy eating.
Wilkins – 53 and vice president of the Atlanta Hawks, which retired his No. 21 in 2001 – is the subject of today’s What are you eating? in WNY Refresh. He also was the subject of a story by sports writer Rod McKissic.
He spent most of his two days in town talking with kids.
I’m glad he spent a few minutes talking with me.
We talked about the staples of his diet, and I asked him what eating was like in Italy and Greece. He spent time in basketball leagues in both those countries toward the tail end of his NBA career.
“I ate good, particularly Italy,” Wilkins said. “The food was outstanding.
“In Greece, they ate a lot of fish; a lot of fish and beef. The food was excellent. When I went to Greece, I (weighed) 245. By the time I left Greece, at the end of a year, I was 218. The food wasn’t very fattening and we practiced twice a day, every day, for nine months.”
He weighed 273 pounds when he was diagnosed with diabetes, and stressed that the extra weight was the biggest factor in his diagnosis. He lost almost 40 pounds in the months thereafter, and has kept it off.
It might be my job to write about health, fitness, nutrition and family matters, but I couldn’t sit down with the 11th leading scorer in NBA history (26,668 points) and not ask him this question:
Who’s the greatest player ever to play pro basketball?
“Besides myself?,” he asked with a smile.
“I know who everybody would like to pick as the greatest player to ever play, but I’ll tell you the greatest player for me is Wilt Chamberlain. ... He averaged 50 points a game, 30 rebounds. Average. That is truly amazing. And then they said, ‘You know, he shoots a lot.’ Next year, at the center position, he led the league in assists. That’s never been done before.”
I have the benefit of having the NBA stats to check over. Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1961-62, leading the league in that category and scoring a record 100 points in a game, versus the New York Knicks. He also led the league that year in rebounds, a feat he accomplished in 11 of his 14 NBA seasons. He led the league in assists once, in ‘67-68, with 702, and averaged 24.3 points per game that year.
“A man that big, that strong, to do what he’d done, that’s truly incredible,” Wilkins said. “When you talk about the greatest, you gotta put Jordan, you gotta put Oscar Robinson in there. Magic. Bird. There’s just too many guys who say, ‘This one guy dominates ‘em all.’ But if I had to pick one, it’d be Wilt Chamberlain.”