Welcome to the part of my website created to give fans a behind the scenes look at life as a professional basketball player. This page will be constantly updated to reflect my thoughts on the coach, practice, the team, and of course the game itself.
by David Aldridge, NBA.com
This week's Mr. Fifteen is Orlando center Adonal Foyle. The 34-year-old hasn't played a minute this season since being activated in mid-December following knee surgery, and only a dire emergency -- injuries to Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Brandon Bass and, probably, assistant coach Patrick Ewing -- would get Foyle out on the floor. But Foyle manages, year after year, to be on someone's roster -- partly because he's 6-foot-10, but partly because he's consistently been one of the game's true good guys. A product of the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Foyle has become much more known for his work off the court as his play on it. He founded Democracy Matters in 2001, a non-partisan, grassroots program designed to get students more involved in political causes and issues. The program is now on more than 70 college campuses nationwide. His Kerosene Lamp Foundation, started in 2006, tries to reach young people in the Eastern Caribbean struggling with illiteracy and other problems. He was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame last September, which has honored the likes of Arthur Ashe, Roberto Clemente, Pele and other athletes for their charitable works since 1994.
Me: Why are you still here, trying to play, when you have such a well-formed idea of what you want to do afterward?
Adonal Foyle: Basketball has always kind of been like my center. I've never been one of those people who thought the game is boring. I always find the game to be fascinating and an opportunity to learn so much. Most of what I do kind of tentacles out from the center, which is the game. Everything else is kind of connected. Basketball has been a part of my life ... when you look at basketball, and what it's done from many levels, you look at it from a socio-economic level, and what it's done to our society, what it's done to the integration globally. You could trace globalization through basketball. I find basketball to be a fascinating part of our society in general. Sports is, but I think basketball, because of its international implication, because it has the potential -- predominately African-Americans and what it's done for their lives -- I'm intrigued by it. I like it. I think I still learn something from it after 13 years ... it has the potential to take mere mortals to ridiculous levels and take average people and make them ridiculously wealthy, and has the potential to transform lives.
Do I want to play? Yeah, we all do. We all want to play 'till we're 60. One or the other is going to decide, (either) injuries or the body don't take it anymore. But until they rip the uniform off, I'm going to be around. I told Otis (Smith, Orlando's general manager) when he wants it, just take it away. Just rip it off, because I'm not giving it up.
Me: How does basketball provide entree globally?
AF: Credit the commissioner. He's done an incredible job of marketing the sport to such an incredible level. It's not hard to utilize the players. You look at how sneaker deals have been happening in China and stuff like that. Not many sports have been able to parlay the game and entrench into these cultures so that everybody from China to India knows who our players are. Professional baseball probably has the same mechanism and potentially the same appeal ... but if you look at what basketball has done, and been able to spread the game globally, I think commissioner Stern deserves credit, as well as the players, for giving us good quality and making the game available to everyone else.
I think there is something more fundamental; it's a simple game. I grew up on an island where there was cricket. Among the things you need to be a good cricketer, you need special cleats, you need pads, you need all these things. For basketball, you can go barefoot. You just need a ball and put a makeshift hoop someplace. So the game is accessible to poor countries as well, and poor people.
Me: Where do you want to take Democracy Matters?
AF: We always felt that the way to engage young people, the next generation needs to find a way to be political. I think of the 1960s as ripe time for people to be political. It was very clear. There were very clear lines of right and wrong. I think politics today is a bit harder, because everything is so entrenched and interconnected. So it's more about deciphering the interconnectedness of how the world works. It's never cut and dried. It's all these gray areas. So to me, it's very hard to be political in this era. I mean, is it really as easy as Nike makes sneakers in sweatshops? You have to look at the wage of that country. You have to look at how that compares to other countries. You have to look at the laws of those countries, and what's the standard they're holding up. It's not as cut and dried. You have to learn the small politics, and you have to learn how money influences everything that happens in our political system.
So what I try to teach the kids is that is where you have to become specialized. You have to be able to learn and trace the money. We have about 85 campuses; we've been doing this for six, seven, eight years. We just formed a federation with Common Cause (the nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes citizen action to hold elected leaders accountable), because one of the things that's really worrisome about NBA charities and professional athlete charities in general is how does it become sustainable beyond your NBA career, when you're no longer the principal supporter? How do you make it last another generation? I felt that you go in with a preexisting organization that can help you. We've become almost the student wing of Common Cause ... and I think that way, it'll be enduring beyond my career.
Me: Have you thought about politics?
AF: No. For me, what's worrisome about politics is that politics has become so personal. I think when our founding fathers envisioned our country and our people, I don't think politics was meant to be a career. And I think what has happened is that we have too many career politicians, that they don't do things, because they want to be re-elected. I don't think that I can be that. I don't think I can be a person who wants to be a politican. I would like to be a person who does something because it's the right thing to do.
Me: So is it difficult to focus when you have one foot in basketball, and one foot out?
AF: I like it. I would like to be a GM in this league. I like the idea of putting a team together. I like the idea of seeing how players work together. I like the idea of creating a team in which the team can function. I like conflict and understanding conflict and handling and managing conflict. For me, I still see that my being here, without playing as much, I get an opportunity to learn from a different perspective. When I was fully engaged, playing every night, I didn't get to think about the game as much, because I was so selfish in my pursuit. I wanted to get ready. I'm in that constant, perpetual state of readiness. I think now, I can watch and learn and observe more. I can look at dynamics differently. I can look at Otis, and see what he's doing, and talk to him. I can talk to the coaching staff. I can sit and talk to the players. I'm kind of in both worlds.
Me: At practice with Dwight, what are you trying to teach?
AF: I try not to give him dunks. I try very hard. I will foul him rather than give him a dunk, or else, let him get to the middle. I try to take away the things that I know he wants to do and is easy for him to do. Sometimes you can tell a guy, you have to count the baseline. But in the game, it's easy when I just completely cut off the middle, and it's so obvious that I am not going to let him go to the middle. Right now, my sternum is hurting, because I wouldn't let him go, and he just ran right through me. And I would call the charge, and they wouldn't call the charge. In practice, I can see the things I know he needs to work on. One of the things I need to see him do is shoot the jump shot ... and dare him to shoot it, and mock him to shoot it. He has a good shot. When you're so good and you can dominate everybody else, it's hard to tell a guy, take the 20-foot jump shot when you go and tomahawk it over somebody's head. But when you need it, you can't just call on it. You have to practice it ...
I'm trying to get him to understand it, that if he makes it a part of his everyday repertoire, it'll be a lot easier when things are difficult. He shouldn't be getting beat up all the time. He should be able to have that jump shot in the game, but not only just for him, but it's for the team. So he can have a weapon. He can go left, he can go right, he can shoot the right-handed hook, he can shoot a left-handed hook, he has runners, he has dunks. He has the moves. But those things would be better set up if he'd set them up with a jump shot.
Me: Did you ever think you'd come out of Colgate, that basketball powerhouse, and play 13 years in the league?
AF: My dad told me a long time ago, if you're true to the game, and you really, truly become a student of the game -- and I didn't understand what he meant at the time -- he said, 'You started the game very late. But it's an advantage, it's not a weakness as most people think. Because it'll still be very fresh in your mind.' Most guys, by the time they get to the NBA, they've been playing basketball for 20-something years, and they're bored with it. And for me, because I started late, I was intrigued by it. I learned something every summer. I worked on something every summer. I may never get to show it, but I worked on something every summer.
The Halfway Point
Ready for Magic to Happen Again
Taking a Buyout
No Jameer, No Time to Worry
2008-09 Season Outlook
Final 2007-08 Thoughts
Hitting the Homestretch
State of the Magic
Regular Season Outlook
Southeast Division Outlook
Mid-season Team Assessment
10th season in the NBA
Final 2005-06 Team Assessment
My Ninth NBA Season!
2004-05 Season Outlook, October 2004
New Warriors VP, May 2004
End of Season, April 2004
One on One with Erick Dampier, April 2004
Analysis of the Younger Warriors, March 2004
Mid-Season Outlook, February 2004
Current Game thoughts