Inside The League (5): A TSS Exclusive Interview with Politically Involved Former NBA Big Man Adonal Foyle

Updated: June 26, 2013

Adonal Foyle is possibly the smartest man to ever play in the NBA. After attending college at Colgate University, which is one of the top 50 universities in the world, and boasts a 29% acceptance rate, Adonal went on to have a successful 12 year career in the NBA. Though his playing career may be over, Foyle is far from inactive. I caught up with Adonal for this week’s edition of “Inside The League.”

Brian Rzeppa (BR): What were your thoughts running through your head when you were drafted No. 8 overall in the NBA Draft?

Adonal Foyle (AF): What immediately ran through my mind was ‘Holy Cow! This is really happening!’ I started thinking about everything I went through, leading up to that moment and what an extraordinary journey it had been. Coming from an island of 500 people and now being one of 450 of the best players in the world was a humbling thing.

BR: Did you have a favorite teammate during your career?

AF: I had a few of them. There are quite a few to name, but I had some great teammates where we shared some of our books and had really good political debates. I’ve been fortunate to not only have had them as teammates – but also have them as good friends to this day.

BR: Do you still enjoy watching the NBA today?

AF: I’m now ruined because of how I’m watching the NBA these days. Because now, I’m watching from a totally different perspective. Now, I watch it more as a coach. And when you see NBA games after having played it for so long, you see everything the coaches have been telling you throughout your entire career. After a while, everything starts to become more clear. You notice mistakes a lot easier. Now, when my friends are watching games with me, they get irritated because I call out things and bring attention things they wouldn’t normally notice. I still watch the games for fun, but now it’s more for the academic look of the game 

BR: What inspired you to get involved with politics?

AF: If you live in a participatory democracy, it is your absolute right to engage with people who are making laws in this country. It is important to let them know how the laws are affecting you. And when you continue to see the amount of money that is being poured into elections by special interest groups, it makes you angry because the voices of the needy are not being heard. Having grown up in a small island in the Caribbean, I’ve always been involved with politics. Where I’m from, politics is almost immediate. When a law is made, you feel it the next day. So I’ve always been engaged politically.

Some of the biggest moments in our American history – from the Women’s Rights Movement, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the anti-war movement – have been in many ways perpetuated by young people. So young people have always had an active role in politics. The fact that it’s more difficult to be involved because of the influence of money in politics doesn’t mean that you stop being politically engaged. You have to be even more politically engaged because your voice is being drowned by this money. And you have to make it a priority to stay involved in politics.

BR: You recently released your first children’s book, “Too Tall Foyle Finds His Game.” What inspired you to write a children’s book?

AF: I’ve been working with kids for the better part of my career. And reading is one of the things I find that is crucial – not only in the United States, but around the world. Reading is a way to predict how kids will do at the next level. It’s important because if you don’t read, it catches up to you as you move up in grade level. So I felt that with this book, “Too Tall Foyle Finds His Game,” it’s somewhat of an autobiographical sketch for young people. I’m really trying to foster a love of reading and learning, and at the same time tell a story about adversity and not being afraid of failing at times. You can dust yourself off and get back up. I think that’s the type of legacy left by great players like Michael Jordan. Kids must also understand that failure is part of that journey, but it should never determine who you are. It’s about rising up and to keep fighting for what you want to do with your life.

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BR: The NBA Draft is later this month. What tips do you have for the draftees, as well as other future NBA hopefuls?

AF: Obviously, it would be to have a great career. More importantly, understand that the career will eventually end (whether it’s a one-year career, or a 15-year career). No matter how well you play, your career will be over at some point. Therefore, enjoy the journey of it, understand that you also have to save your money for retirement and start thinking about a career after basketball. It’s never too early to have that mentality.

Like many of the other athletes featured in this series, Foyle is using his influence as a former professional athlete to do good things. Though he didn’t mention them specifically in the interview, he started Democracy Matters, which tries to get college students involved in the political process, as well as the Kerosene Lamp Foundation, which helps children in Foyle’s home country (St. Vincent & The Grenadines) grow into well educated adults.

If you’re looking for more information on Foyle himself, just visit his website or talk to him on Twitter!

This is the fifth part of my weekly series, so stayed tuned for more interviews from players, coaches, and general managers!

Thanks for reading!