Preventative heart health for professional athletes, former Chicago Bulls center Eddy Curry & more was discussed with veteran cardiologist Dr. John Rumberger & Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson via the Scoop B Radio Podcast. Press Play Below To Listen!
Eddy Curry was at the top of his game last decade. A big man with handles, and a soft touch around the basket, the 6’11 big man was selected fourth overall in the 2001 NBA draft by the hometown Chicago Bulls.
Curry represented the preps to pro story that seems to be making a resurgence with the NCAA and the NBA amending the one-and done rules currently governing the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
A McDonald’s All-American in 2001, Curry’s transition to the NBA was steady. A stand out at Chicagoland’s Thornwood High School in South Holland, Illinois, Curry was a member of a young Bulls team dubbed the “Baby Bulls.”
That team had a sprinkle of youth with names like Jamal Crawford, Eddie Robinson, Metta World-Peace (then known as Ron Artest), Brad Miller and Tyson Chandler on their roster. That Bulls team also had vets Charles Oakley, Jalen Rose, Greg Anthony, Travis Best and Fred Hoiberg present.
“They were trendsetting,” retired NBA player,Darius Miles told me.
“I think you see a lot of kids today, a lot of stuff like that, it’s kind of us that they’re mimicking.”
Curry’s confidence grew and his scoring production picked up, too.
He went from averaging 6.7 and hauling in a shade above 3 rebounds his rookie season tobecoming the team’s starting center by his third season. The former Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois continued to blossom by becoming the team’s leading scorer while averaging a career best 16 points and 5 rebounds that season. He also helped lead the Bulls to the NBA Playoffs during the 2004-05 season.
Also that season, Curry complained of chest pains and feeling lightheaded; both symptoms tied to a heart arrhythmia, before a game in March 2005.
That’s where Curry’s basketball world shifted. Curry was diagnosed with a benign arrhythmia and as a result he and the Chicago Bulls were in a fight “far bigger than just the sports world.”
A talented scorer, Curry wasn’t a very skilled rebounder or shotblocker and his heart health alarmed the Chicago Bulls organization.
Curry’s condition was no joke. Former basketball players Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis had the same condition. They also both collapsed on the court while playing and died.
“I think it is more common than people realize,” Dr. John Rumberger tells Scoop B Radio.
Rumberger, a veteran cardiologist at Princeton Longevity Center in Princeton, NJ is considered a pioneer in non-invasive Cardiac Imaging. He insists that the athletic heart has many complexities to it, especially in professional sports. “A basketball player generally is an aerobic athlete,” he told me on Scoop B Radio this summer.
“Their hearts tend to get a little bit bigger and they don’t tend to have the thickness in there unlike the football players.”
At the end of the 2004-05 season, Curry was an NBA restricted-free agent.
As per Bleacher Report, the Bulls wanted Curry to take a DNA test to see whether or not he was predisposed to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the thickening of the heart muscle that has been known to lead to sudden death, especially amongst young athletes.
Curry declined to take the test, citing medical and ethical reasons. Essentially, he felt that he was healthy and had been cleared by doctors to play.
Eventually, the Bulls and the New York Knicks agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that included Curry and Antonio Davis shipped to the Knicks in exchange for Mike Sweetney, Tim Thomas, and Jermaine Jackson.
Curry got a fresh start. His best statistical season as a Knick came during the 2006-07 season where he posted a career high of 43 points in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks and he averaged 19.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 34.9 minutes per game that season.
Unfortunately, that Knicks team would finish 33-49 that season, fourth in the NBA Atlantic Division that year.
That Knicks team had notables like Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, David Lee, Channing Frye, Nate Robinson and Steve Francis on that roster. “They were all under the age of 27,” former Knicks head coach and NBA Hall of Famer, Isiah Thomas told me.
Mike D’Antoni would be hired as a Knicks head coach the following season. D’Antoni and team President, Donnie Walsh would clean house with Stephon Marbury eventually banished and Curry never really fit in the Knicks’ rotation. He was eventually shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the blockbuster trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks in 2011.
Curry would continue to bounce around the league, notably as a member of the Miami Heat’s 2011-2012 championship team. He’d later trek overseas to China and played for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls.
He averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds while there.
Curry’s heart health created a major detour for his career. Preventative steps earlier in player’s career could prevent something like this from happening in the future.
Statistics show that retired NBA players have a high rate of heart disease and heart attack.
According to an article written by ESPN The Undefeated Marc J. Spears in June 2016, NBA alumni are concerned about the string of former big men who have died in recent years due to heart problems.
Notables who have died from heart disease include: Hall of Fame center Moses Malone, former NBA forward Darryl Dawkins, former journeyman center Jack Haley and former NBA forward Anthony Mason.
Ironically, Mason, became a life insurance marketing specialist with the Hotaling Group, an independent insurance firm based in Manhattan.
Mason, a member of the New York Knicks’ 1994 Eastern Conference championship team and the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1995, shared with me that one of his dreams within the company was to create a program where players could put aside their money they earn up front so it can grow throughout their career.
“You’re going to play 10 to 12 years by accident if you’ve got any skill,” Anthony Mason told me in a 2013 interview.
“Why not have your money work for you?”
Health is also wealth. Professional athletes realize it and so have leagues.
Jacqueline Graves, a Wellness Coach and Program Manager at Princeton Longevity Center, suggests utilizing the center’s CardiaResQ Program.
According to Graves, CardiaResQ uses state of the art cardiovascular imaging technology to painlessly and non-invasively measures the amount of plaque in your arteries. “It’s been thoughtfully designed to slow, stop or even reverse plaque in individuals with known or suspected heart disease,” she said.
Per their website, their team of experts can adjust the intensity of your treatment plan to lower your risk with the minimum disruption in your lifestyle.
The NBA began screenings two years ago in Orlando, Florida.
“Cardiac health and screening remains an extremely high priority for the league, the Players Association and the Retired Players Association,” NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver told ESPN in 2016.
Per The Orlando Sentinel, nurses drew blood to measure HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels and echocardiograms and carotid artery ultrasounds were also performed.
Also on the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Dr. John Rumberger says that cases like Eddy Curry’s should force professional athletes to get serious about their health. In fact, they should begin to ask themselves the tough questions. “Do you have a poorly functioning heart,” asked Dr. Rumberger.
“Do you have a functioning heart? Do you have normal heart arteries? All these things are very important and also do you have the ability to increase the blood flow to your heart on demand without actually hurting yourself.”