Basketball Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Speaks Out About Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosis

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Leena Nasir Entertainment Reporter
Font Size:

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke out about his atrial fibrillation (AFib) diagnosis and urged people to monitor their health for the condition in an interview with People Magazine.

The former athlete, 75, said he felt ill and collapsed while attending a Los Angeles Dodgers game in roughly 2020-2021. He quickly went to the hospital, where he was told he suffered from AFib, People reported Thursday. The condition leads to an irregular heartbeat and can trigger blood clots, stroke or heart failure, according to the American Heart Association.

“I started noticing symptoms about two or three years ago,” Abdul-Jabbar told the outlet. “I was having irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath and had no energy or stamina. I couldn’t walk more than 30 yards without having to sit down and rest to catch my breath.”

“I was sitting in the sun and the sun seemed to suck all of the air out of my chest,” he said, speaking about the incident at the Dodgers game that prompted him to go to the hospital. “I tried to get up from my seat and head to my car and while people were helping me to my car, I collapsed and almost crashed into the Dodgers trophy case.”

Abdul-Jabbar said he initially dismissed his symptoms when he began feeling a bit “off,” and is urging others to pay closer attention to the signals their body is sending them.

“I thought it was a temporary issue,” he told the outlet. “I had been an athlete and was in shape, so I felt it wasn’t going to bother me for any length of time. But I was quite wrong.”

Abdul-Jabbar told People about the serious nature of his condition.

“The shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat are things that come and go but in the long-term, this is considered life threatening and people need to know about it,” he said. (RELATED: John Fetterman Releases Doctor’s Note After Stroke, Reveals He ‘Almost Died’)

The legendary basketball player has partnered with Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer in their “No Time to Wait” campaign as part of an effort to educate the public about AFib, according to a Feb. 16 press release.

“It’s absolutely necessary for people to get checked by a doctor, and I hope that my coming out and talking about this will help people understand what they need to do to protect their health,” Abdul-Jabbar told the outlet.

Abdul-Jabbar said he uses exercise therapies and medication to manage his condition, but added his physical capabilities have diminished. “There are things that I thought I should be able to do that I can’t do.”

“I was able to go for long walks and swim and all the things that I’ve enjoyed most of my life. Once this AFib got a hold of me, it was a different story,” Abdul-Jabbar said, according to People.

“[AFib] affects people from all walks of life — even somebody who thinks they’re a great athlete and immune to it. It happens to us, too. It’s not something you can just dismiss,” the sports legend concluded.