Gary Forbes Interview: Forbes Discusses Teaming with Carmelo Anthony, Partying with JR Smith, Life in the D-League, Playing with Diabetes & Life After Basketball
Jeffrey Kee: How were you first introduced to hoops?
Gary Forbes: I’m originally from Panama. Basketball isn’t too big over there. People mostly play soccer, but we’ve produced a few NBA guys over the years. Rolando Blackman is probably the most famous.
I started playing basketball at a really young age. I come from an athletic family. My father was a very athletic guy; he was really into weight lifting. My brother is actually the person who taught me how to play. Growing up in Brooklyn, he would take me to the park and we’d always watch Michael Jordan who was hands down my favorite player. Soon enough, I fell in love with it and would spend all of my time playing basketball at the park. If my mom was ever looking for me, she knew exactly where I’d be.
Kee: You played your college ball at the University of Virginia and then transferred to Massachusetts. Talk about your college experience a little bit.
Forbes: I played my first two years at Virginia in the ACC and then decided to transfer to UMass where I could get more playing time and would be closer to home. That was a good move for me because my senior year I was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and was able to make a name for myself which help set me up for a career in the pros.
Kee: After college, you had to wait a few years until you got your first shot in the NBA. What was that process like?
Forbes: It was a grind, man. I played in the D-League for a year and then went overseas for a bunch of seasons. I played in China, Italy, Israel, Venezuela and Argentina, so I’ve got a lot of stamps on my passport.
Kee: What are some of the good and bad aspects of playing in the D-League?
Forbes: The D-League can be tough, but if you’re really serious about making it to the NBA, it’ll give you a great opportunity to be noticed by coaches and scouts. In terms of talent level, there are a lot of really good players in the D-League, so the games are always competitive. The worst thing is probably the travel because we went everywhere by bus. Fan attendance can be bad as well. There are some teams that have a really strong fan base, but that’s not the case for most teams.
Kee: Your first NBA stint was with the Denver Nuggets in 2010. After so many years on the cusp of the NBA, what did it feel like to finally make it to the league?
Forbes: It was incredible. My agent had been in talks with the Nuggets and he was able to land me a spot on their training camp roster. From then on, it was up to me to showcase my talent, which I was able to do. I ended up signing with them and got a chance to play with Carmelo Anthony, which was a great experience. With Melo being a future Hall of Famer I was able to learn a lot from him. Guys like Chauncey Billups, Al Harrington and Kenyon Martin were great for me as well. To this day, I’m very close with Al Harrington. I’m the god father to one of his children.
Kee: How’d you like George Karl’s coaching style?
Forbes: George was a great coach. He played a lot of mind games on his players, but in terms of strategy and knowledge of the game, he’s phenomenal.
Kee: Did you ever go partying with JR Smith?
Forbes: Oh yeah, all the time! JR is one of my good friends. He’s a real cool dude. Denver’s a really fun city too. It’s very low key. People are always sleeping on it, but JR and I had a lot of fun.
Kee: After the Nuggets you signed with the Toronto Raptors where you got more playing time, but didn’t win as many games. How would you describe your time there?
Forbes: It was still a lot of fun. I had a really good season individually. We didn’t win as many games as we would have liked, so the losing was tough at times, but that’s just life in the NBA. I really enjoyed playing in Canada. The night life there is great; it’s a lot like New York City. The fans there were very dedicated regardless of our record. The arena always had a lively atmosphere. Those are the things I’ll remember the most.
Kee: One thing that a lot of people don’t know is that you’ve played your entire career with diabetes. What affect does that have on your game?
Forbes: It actually doesn’t affect me at all. I discovered I had diabetes when I was 19 years old, and since then I’ve never missed a practice or a game. Early on, I kept my diagnosis as a secret because I didn’t want coaches and scouts to view diabetes as a hindrance, but it’s not at all.
Kee: You’re still pretty young. What are your basketball goals moving forward?
My main goal is to get another training camp shot in the NBA, but if that doesn’t happen I want to continue playing at a high level overseas where I can make good money and provide for my family. Outside of basketball, I have a couple of foundations and businesses that I want to continue growing. Right now, I have the Gary Forbes Foundation which helps kids with diabetes. When my playing career is over I want to continue bringing awareness to that and help it grow as much as possible.