Former NBA Star Is Waiting for a Kidney

Slam dunk champ Nate Robinson opens up to Men's Health about his fight to survive
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2024 12:20 PM CDT
Former NBA Star Is Waiting for a Kidney
New York Knicks' Nate Robinson leaps during the slam dunk contest at the NBA basketball All-Star game Saturday Night in Dallas on February 13, 2010.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

Nate Robinson's 10-year NBA career was gravity-defying. He holds the record for the most All-Star Game Slam Dunk Contest wins, taking the title in 2006, 2009, and 2010 as a New York Knick. Standing at only 5-foot-9 (the average player height today is 6-foot-6.5 inches), he soared above his competitors, dunking over players a foot taller than him. "When he leaped into the NBA in 2005, he was known to heat up in a hurry," writes Tyler R. Tynes for Men's Health. "Every game, it was like he played with hot sauce in his socks." But shortly after his professional basketball career began in 2005, Robinson was officially diagnosed with kidney disease. "I felt like I was Superman. I never thought I would get sick," he recalls.

Robinson was able to power through his condition during his NBA days, but after he retired in 2015, his health began declining, and an early and bad bout with COVID in 2020 was a tipping point. After a week in the hospital, doctors told him he'd need to start dialysis, and since then, the star dunker's kidney's function is at less than 15% optimal capacity. Tynes follows Robinson through his dark days, when he couldn't face his loved ones or even leave home other than to receive treatment, through a mindset switch that brought him back to the gym, with the hopes of one day dunking again. And in the backdrop of the story is a struggle that fame and fortune do not transcend—Black Americans are three times more likely to have kidney failure than white people, but experience longer transplant waits and are at higher risk of hospitalization and death. Read the full story at Men's Health. (And check out more Longforms.)

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