Pro basketball coach David Blatt talks exclusively to Euronews about his MS diagnosis

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By Ioannis Giagkinis  & Emma Beswick
Pro basketball coach David Blatt talks exclusively to Euronews about his MS diagnosis

David Michael Blatt, an Israeli-American professional basketball coach and a former professional basketball player, is known for coaching players at the top of their physical prowess.

One of the most successful coaches in European basketball history, he was NBA team Cleveland Cavaliers' head coach from 2014-2016 and is currently the head coach of the Greek team Olympiacos.

But last week, Blatt made a surprising announcement in a letter on his current team's website — he has been diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS).

In an exclusive interview with Euronews' Ioannis Giagkinis, Blatt said his reasons for telling the world about his health are twofold.

"I'm a public figure, people know me and see me and recognise me and obviously could tell something was not normal with me," he said. "I felt it was important that I was honest and forthright about what my situation was."

Secondly, Blatt added: "I had a hope that perhaps in some way I could offer support or motivation or inspiration to other people that are suffering from my kind of illness."

How has his daily life changed?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system), where the immune system attacks nerve fibres and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body.

PPMS affects about 10-15% of people diagnosed with MS, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society UK. Its name is such because, from the first (primary) symptoms, it is progressive. Symptoms gradually get worse over time, rather than appearing as sudden relapses.

"I don't run around as I used to," Blatt said. "On the court I move a bit more slowly, more gingery. I have to be more careful."

However, he insisted his diagnosis hasn't changed his outlook, "passion for the game" or "stopped me from doing the best job that I can coaching and leading my guys".

What's his biggest fear?

"I don't think in terms of fear," Blatt said, citing a Winston Churchill quote: "There is nothing to fear but fear itself."

"In this situation as in sport, as in basketball, omitting your excellence, committing to doing your best takes away all the fear," he added.

What's his message to the world?

The coach has one message for anyone in a similar situation to his: "Never ever ever give up."

"There is an awful lot of good out there and you can find and use it to help," he said.