Early Deaths For NBA Big Men

Here we have something scary: a number of former NBA big men have recently died at a rather young age. Just this year, 6’11” (and packing a lot of weight) Darryl Dawkins died at the age of 58; and 6’10” Moses Malone (also a wide body) died at the age of 60. I find this to be different from concussions in the NFL: the NFL could do something about concussions; there is little the NBA can do about their men dying 20 years after their career ends.

What could be the possible causes of this Early Death Syndrome? That’s a term I just invented. First of all, it may just be in their DNA. Other people, not as tall and not as big, have had early deaths but they were not as famous as these two men. Secondly, I wonder about weight control and post-career physical conditioning. But, you know, 7’1″ Wilt Chamberlain died in 1999, when he was just 63 and he worked out and did Yoga and was not overweight. But, through his career, he did add bulk to his frame, as photos from 1955 and 1972 will show.

What can be done? I would guess that the NBA might do well to start monitoring these men the minute they enter the league. I’m sure they give them thorough medical exams and that’s crucial. But, they may have to start a ‘Family History Profile,’ to see if there is any past evidence of such problems, just like doctors do with women, to see if there is any history of breast cancer in their family tree, or as they do with men to plot out if there is any past relative with prostate trouble, lung cancer or what have you. Sometimes these profiles are most revealing.

Of course, I think weight control is crucial here. I’m of the idea that a man’s heart is going to save on wear and tear if it is asked to pump blood to a 220 lb. body, as opposed to a 270 lb. body. I also think these men would do well not only to monitor their weight but what they eat, as they may not be getting a properly-balanced diet. Well, it’s a complex situation and I have barely scratched the surface of all this. Whatever, 60 years of age is way too young for a man, especially one that has been a highly-trained athlete, to pass on to the next life.