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Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The Old "Mr. Diabetes"


Morrison has shaved the locks, but diabetes will always be a constant.

In terms of hiding this affliction you have, when your first college game is at Madison Square Garden on national TV and you run in, bury your first shot, then during a timeout head to the sidelines where you proceed to lift your shirt and bury a needle in your side with the tapes rolling…well, you could do better. But that's Adam Morrison, a generally quiet dude whose game got loud while his hair got long, and his disease got noticed. And noticed. And noticed. (Yeah, us too.)

He was a player, but he was also "Mr. Diabetes." "I got a lot of press," he says. "When I first started playing I always was made to feel like I was the first big athlete with diabetes, but there were a lot of great athletes with diabetes that had done greater things than I had." And it grated. A little. "I guess that was the one thing that would always bother you a little. You want to be known as a ballplayer instead of 'ballplayer with diabetes'. At first I felt like that was what they talked about no matter what I did." That's because by the time the press came, Morrison was plenty used to the physical routine. Since 8th grade, when after a summer camp he was perpetually famished and weak and a trip to the emergency room confirmed his new reality, he'd gotten used to the needles, the strict dietary habits—cereal and toast, a sub at lunch, steak and potato two hours and 15 minutes before gametime, repeat, daily—and the general reality of "This is your life now." But the whole Mr. Diabetes thing? Morrison had other interests. He was a reader, a video game junky, social, a dreamer, a kid figuring out his dogma, growing his hair and crafting one of the most peculiar collegiate images ever, to go along with one of the most dominating seasons. Now, of course, he isn't the only floppy-haired athlete with diabetes attached to his name, (and not just because he finally shaved the mane last week. Jay Cutler is on board, though he has some serious work to do in the polls.

Google "Adam Morrison diabetes" and you get 84,500 results. "Jay Cutler diabetes" is lagging at just 48,000. For Jay it's new reality, for Adam, it's an old routine. Even to the point where as he occasionally promotes how to live better as a diabetic, he's reluctant to try all the new stuff.

Morrison dominated as a junior at Gonzaga, averaging 28.1 ppg.

It's like tweaking your jump shot. "That's something I've always struggled with. There's something new, and the medial technology will grow and grow, but once you get into a groove and a routine with treating yourself it's hard to get off that," says Morrison. "Especially when you're playing, if you find something that works, you don't really like to get off it. There's a lot of stuff that gets thrown at me, and I know it probably works, but it's tough because you just get comfortable with what you have." Morrison is more concerned with treating his game. As a rookie he averaged a hair under 12 pts a game, even while put in a tough situation as an addition to a young Charlotte team in the midst of severe growing pains. Then last year he was sidelined with a torn ACL that kept him from hoops entirely. He's literally just getting his feet back under him under new coach Larry Brown, and with a number of new teammates. And he's happy to hand off the reigns to the newest Mr. Diabetes. Welcome, Jay.

His advice? Morrison laughs. "Well, just prepare for a lot of questions, and don't look at it as a bad thing. It's not a bad thing that you're visible. Diabetes really is a problem in America. You may not like the public figure role, but you're going to help some people." And it'll never just be about your sport. "You'll be shocked how many people come up and just want to find out what it's all about and how you deal with it." Now if Morrison could only hand off the title of Mr. Moustache, he'd be good to go.