NBA Gary Forbes' Road to the Big Time

The Denver Nuggets' Forbes will be remembered for a short but successful stay in the Israeli Premier League last season with Ramat Gan.

Jerry Mittleman
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Jerry Mittleman

The path to the NBA from Israel usually winds through Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv or occasionally Malha in the capital. This year Gary Forbes has taken an unusual and unexpected road from Ramat Gan to the Denver Nuggets.

Until recently, when Forbes' playing time was drastically reduced by Chris Anderson's return from injury and J.R. Smith's return to coach George Karl's good graces, the former University of Massachusetts star had been averaging nearly 10 points a game. He is still rated by ESPN as one of the 10 most productive rookies in the NBA.

Gary Forbes.Credit: AP

This includes a 19-point, nine-rebound performance in an early-season victory over the New York Knicks. Forbes is still a rotation player, averaging a highly efficient six points a game in very limited minutes of play.

Forbes will be remembered for a short but successful stay in the Israeli Premier League last season. He joined a woeful Ramat Gan team in midseason and scored 28 in his opening game. He finished the year leading the league in scoring with over 20 a game and helped his team become a lot more respectable, winning almost half its games during his time there.

The 25-year-old 2.01m forward has taken a highly circuitous route to the NBA. One of the few natives of Panama to have played in the NBA, Forbes immigrated to the United States with his mother as a child and became a highly touted schoolboy star in Brooklyn. Forbes began his college career at the University of Virginia.

The first major hurdle in his path to the NBA occurred when he was diagnosed with diabetes at the end of his freshman season. He went on to complete another season at Virginia before transferring to Massachusetts, when Virginia changed coaches. After sitting out the mandatory year required of transfers, Forbes had two very productive years at UMass.

In his first year he played behind former Maccabi Tel Aviv player Stephane Lasme. Forbes took over the leadership of his team in his senior year and averaged more than 20 points a contest.

Despite a very strong showing in the pre-draft camps, Forbes went unselected in the 2008 draft and began the peripatetic existence of those not quite good enough to make the Big Time. He made the usual route of stops, including the NBA's D-league, the Philippine league, various European circuits and tryouts with the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets.

His big chance came in the fall, when the Nuggets invited him to their preseason camp. He showed a strong inside and outside game and made Denver's roster. Now, for the first time in his career, Forbes, who has traditionally flown under the radar (even while in Israel ), is getting the recognition he deserves - despite taking a path less taken.



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