NBA legend Ray Allen credits FreeStyle Libre 2 for helping son manage diabetes

Ray Allen's son, Walker, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at just 17 months old

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NBA legend Ray Allen is synonymous with greatness on the basketball court as the league’s all-time three-point shooter and a two-time champion with the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, but he was dealing with one of his greatest challenges at the height of his accolades.

Allen, who is now retired, shares five children with his wife, Shannon Allen. At just 17 months, their middle son, Walker, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. During the 2008 NBA Finals—which pitted the Celtics against the Los Angeles Lakers and showcased Allen powering through 48 minutes of a grueling Game 5 to rally his team for a come-from-behind victory and ultimately securing his first ring—the Allens were informed that Walker’s blood sugar was “poisoning him.”

NBA Finals Game 4: Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics goes up for a shot over Trevor Ariza #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Four of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 12, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Walker needed a shot of insulin or else he’d die.

“I didn’t have a clue as to what diabetes was all about. I didn’t know what it did to your body,” Ray exclusively tells theGrio of his thoughts during the early days of Walker’s diagnosis.

“It seemed like it was something that was stricken or has stricken people of an older age and obviously dealing with Walker, [he was] 17 months. It gave us better guidelines for lack of a better word in how we live and how we eat.”

Ray adds that as a professional athlete, he was already maintaining his physical fitness. Walker’s condition allowed him to refine his diet even more and bring their family closer.

“It just seemed like it give us some greater purpose and certainly now with the FreeStyle Libre 2, it’s allowed us to monitor for Walker diabetes a lot better than we initially first started.”

Ray Allen Walker Allen thegrio.con
Basketball legend Ray Allen and 14 year-old son Walker practice their free throws as Walker wears Abbott’s Freestyle Libre 2 sensor to help manage his Type 1 diabetes (Courtesy of Ray Allen)

Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 is a glucose monitoring system that has a sensor affixed to a person’s upper arm. A handheld reader takes a one-second scan. It’s available for children aged 4 and up.

“At first I used to have to prick my finger on these 15 times a day, now with the freestyle 2, I get on time alert and training data. So, it helps me along,” Walker, now 14, says.

Shannon explains further how hard it was for Walker before he began using the product from Abbott. He had to prick his finger seven to 10 times a day and then follow up with insulin injections. This went on for 13 years, 365 days a year.

“Walker’s absolutely our heart. We want to make sure he can live a full, active and healthy life and reach his full genetic potential,” she shares.

“This product is the first product ever aligned with us as a family in 13 years because it truly has made Walker’s life just a little bit easier.”

2018 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 enshrinee Ray Allen speaks during the 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on September 7, 2018 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Walker’s diagnosis also led to the couple opening their family-owned restaurant, grown, that operates out of Miami and features organic fast food delicacies such as fried chicken, candied yams, and greens. During Allen’s 18-year NBA career, Shannon prepared healthier meals for her husband and showcased them on the series, The Pre-Game Meal.

“He’s the reason that we’re reinventing fast food as a family. So, the real scary thing for us was how can we continue to contribute to the health and wellness of our community to keep our community healthy if we can’t be open,” Shannon says.

“And, you know, for Black and brown folks especially, and people living with diabetes, that puts us at the most at-risk list for complications of COVID. So contributing to the autoimmune health, the wellness of the community, supporting people’s immune systems has been tantamount to our family’s goals this year. So we’re grateful to still be alive and thriving.”

Ray muses that with all that has happened in the past year, it has crystallized that everyone is going through something.

Ray Allen
Ray Allen and Shannon Allen at the Hard Rock Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

“We all have some sort of trauma that we’re associated with. There’s a tendency for us to kind of be tribal about everything that we go through. We stick to kind of our own. I think that that way of thinking, that way of moving forward has gotten us into trouble not only as a country, but around the world,” the Hall of Famer declares.

He extended his gratitude to Abbott, which is committed to creating breakthrough products, for giving his family this platform to help inform others who are struggling with diabetes and treatment plans.

“Every time we speak about diabetes through social media, it gives voice to someone who is voiceless and this time has given us an opportunity to at least express to people, ‘Hey, I know you’re going to something,’” Ray says.

“You know, we all feel this trauma, this association to this downtrodden. It’s happening not only to you, but to all of us, to people all over the world. It’s just a moment to stop and say, ‘You know, we feel your pain.’ We’re right here with you. You’re not alone.”

Watch the video above for the full interview.

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