FEATURE: Alum Forbes 'Blessed' To Get NBA Shot
April 1, 2011
By Chris Dempsey
Gary Forbes wakes up and starts almost every morning with a tweet: "Thanking God for another day alive . . . #Blessed."
Living is something Forbes no longer takes for granted. Each day after his GForbz3 tweet, Forbes takes two insulin shots. There is another shot before lunch and one or two more before he goes to bed.
The Nuggets small forward has lived with Type 1 diabetes since he was diagnosed in 2005 when he was 19.
"I'm pretty much used to it by now," Forbes said. "It doesn't bother me. It doesn't affect me. I'm still out here running up and down like everybody else."
And he's also talking about it. For a long time it was hard for Forbes to wrap his mind around the situation, much less discuss it with others. There was the wondering and the "whys." His father and grandfather were diabetic, so he always felt there was a chance it was genetic.
Now a 26-year-old NBA rookie, Forbes remains convinced that widespread knowledge of his condition cost him a real shot at being drafted out of Massachusetts in 2008. And, while time has healed that draft snub, it doesn't mean he'll stop carrying a life-sized chip on his shoulder.
As a fifth-year senior at UMass, he was named Atlantic 10 player of the year. But he watched as guys such as Ante Tomic, Richard Hendrix, Shan Foster and Maarty Leunen were drafted while Forbes waited, and waited.
But now, as the Nuggets head down the home stretch of the season, Forbes is doing what none of those players have done, play in the NBA.
Forbes' basketball travels have taken him from Italy to Israel to the NBA D-League's Sioux City Skyforce. He's played in good conditions and bad but never let go of his goal to play in the NBA.
The Nuggets signed him this summer as a free-agent invitee, mainly a guy signed to help in preseason practices, but Forbes has stayed with the team.
"Personally, it's been up- and-down. I've had my good moments, and I've had my down times as expected," Forbes said of this season. "But I'm going to stay in the gym and keep working and keep getting better every day. I have a high expectation for myself, and I definitely think I'm going to reach those goals."
Nuggets coach George Karl fell in love with Forbes' defensive tenacity in training camp. Notorious for being tough on rookies, Karl not only took a liking to this one, but in some ways sees a little of himself in Forbes.
Karl pulled Forbes over Thursday morning for a chat about playing time. Forbes wants more. He has averaged 11.5 minutes per game (4.8 points and 1.7 rebounds).
"I said, 'I know you want more minutes, but keep your focus because there might be a playoff situation or there might be a game that I need you for five or six minutes,' " Karl said. "And I say that as a positive because that's who I was, that's what I was told at the beginning of a playoff series. 'You're not going to play a lot, but be ready to cover this guy,' or 'We might have foul trouble, you might get five or six minutes.' I have confidence to put him on the court in that situation."
Karl trusts the 6-foot-7 Forbes enough to install him as the emergency starter (eight times this season) when a starting wing player was injured.
"I look at the opportunities as a chance to let Coach know that he can trust me in these situations," Forbes said. "If I can be effective in these types of games that are must-win games, then hopefully down the line in the playoffs he can look down the bench and remember the times that I've been helpful and dependable."
But no matter what happens, Forbes says always remembers he is "blessed to have this opportunity."
"We did a clinic with special-needs kids, and that was really touching," Forbes said. "Some kids are blind, disabled, in a wheelchair, and they look up to us. But for me to have this opportunity to have all of my body parts and be able to go out there, it's just a blessing."
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