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Thursday, October 9, 2008
A Dose of Reality from the Iceman


George Gervin is immortal, to me. He's superhuman. He's the guy in the poster, sitting on a throne of ice. He's the guy in the highlight videos, swooping across the floor.

But of course, no one is really superhuman. And after years of not eating well, and not getting checkups, George Gervin is closely following doctor's orders in the hopes that hypertension won't shorten his life.

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News reports

He played at 185 pounds, recalling Wednesday that Bob Bass made him a guard because he was too skinny to handle the rough-and-tumble in the paint.

He still looks trim, but in a conference room at University Center for Community Health, Gervin said his weight had crept up to 245. With a family history of hypertension, he knows he was foolish to think he was immune.

Elite athletes sometimes get the false notion they are super-human, immune from the routine maladies that afflict those who aren't gifted with atypical physical skill. Diseases, though, don't recognize superstars.

"After I stopped playing I stopped getting physicals," he said. "Thank God for my lovely wife, Joyce. She kept saying, 'You haven't had a physical for a while. When are you going to do it?"

Gervin knew from the look on a nurse's face that his blood pressure was abnormal.

"She took it on my left arm," he said, "and then she gave me a look. Then she took it on the other arm. She said, 'George, you've got hypertension.'"

Dr. Gregory Johnson told Gervin he immediately needed to begin a medication regimen.

"I said, 'Doc, you know I don't like to take medication.'"

That's when Johnson gave him a dose of reality. He explained to Gervin that hypertension is the "silent killer." The doctor also said if he were too stubborn to take medications he would die.

That got Gervin's attention; now he takes his meds. Just as importantly, he gets up early each day and heads to the gym, where he does at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on a treadmill or an elliptical stepper.

He also eats healthy. No more fried food. More fresh vegetables and fruit. He is on his way to manageable blood pressure.

And he is spreading the word.