It’s Not A Game: Deaths Prompt Heart Screenings For Former NBA Players

Willie Davis NBA

Retired player Willie Davis talks with cardiologist Richard Ammar, M.D. (far right), and other healthcare providers at the National Basketball Players Association health screening in Dallas.

Twenty years after he retired from professional basketball, Morlon Wiley still looks like somebody you want on your side in a pickup game. Lean and fit, he eats right, works out and goes to the doctor for checkups.

But he recently turned 50, and he knew too many former players who didn’t make it out of their sixth decade. “We’ve lost some great guys too young, and it hurts,” he said.

So when the National Basketball Players Association invited Wiley to a free, comprehensive heart screening, he didn’t hesitate. “I’m pretty sure I’m OK, but I wouldn’t miss this,” he said. “It’s great that the current players are doing this for us.”

Wiley, a 6-foot-4 point guard who played for five NBA teams over seven seasons, is one of about 150 former players who have undergone the screenings in a nationwide program about to complete its first year. The players association launched the effort to safeguard former players’ health and compile data about what dangers they may face.

About a dozen NBA vets, including Wiley, came to the latest event, in the Dallas Mavericks locker room at the American Airlines Center, where doctors and technicians set up shop amid the weight machines, massage tables and plush locker stalls. The ex-players shared stories, ate a healthy lunch and took turns in the makeshift exam rooms behind black curtains.