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Sunday, 21 March 2010 15:34

Adonal Foyle - The Most Important Player on the Orlando Magic roster

Written by  George Diaz

His salary is $1.3 million.

The Average Joe sitting in the upper deck might look down at Adonal Foyle and hoist a beer in his honor: "You've got the cushiest job in sports dude!"

Perception is a funny thing. It's true that Foyle isn't dazzling anybody with his low-post moves. Nobody will ever mistake him for Superman. It's hard to remember the last time he rated a mention on ESPN.

But if you peek behind the curtain, where games are won and lost in the day-to-day grind of practice, or in the privacy of the locker room where discussions are held about a team's focus or post-retirement options, Foyle is a million-dollar bargain.

"He may not be the Most Valuable Player but he is the most important player we have on the roster," said Magic General Manager Otis Smith. "He's a veteran who can help young guys deal with the ins and outs of basketball as well as the game of life. Basketball is bigger than what we see for those 48 minutes."

Outside the scope of those 48 minutes, Foyle is one of the most intriguing players in the NBA. His fingerprints are all over the place — the degree from Colgate (magna cum laude), the stack of poems he has written, the 900 or so bottles of wine in the cellar of his Bay area home, and two foundations he has established. Did we mention that he's also in the Humanitarian Hall of Fame?

That kind of resume deserves a closer look.

Foyle allowed me tag-along access to his world last Wednesday, leading up to Orlando's game against the San Antonio Spurs in the Amway Arena. We started with coffee at 8 a.m. at the corner unit condo he leases overlooking Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, and said goodbye around 11 p.m., as he was leaving the arena to drive to the Orlando Executive Airport for a charter flight to Miami.

In-between, he jockeyed with Dwight Howard in the post during practice, then went-one-on-one with Magic Spanish-language broadcaster Joey Colon in five games of racquetball in the afternoon. He left the racquetball court for a quick haircut, and then scooted back to his condo to pack for the one-day road trip before going to the arena at 6:30 p.m.

Foyle has no worries about tweaking any muscles on the racquetball court. He's not on the active roster, although he has suited up when other players have been inactive for various reasons. He was dressed and ready to go when Orlando played the Chicago Bulls on March 11, a night when Magic fans began chanting his name during a 29-point blowout. Coach Stan Van Gundy decided not to play Foyle for meaningless, mop-up minutes.

No offense taken.

"There in the moment, it was a nice thing, but I'm also thinking, ‘Oh my God, I've been sitting here for three hours,' " Foyle said, laughing. "I understand the context in which it was meant. In many ways it was a compliment."

Foyle, who recently turned 35, has been around long enough to understand the intricacies of the league and the dynamics of team chemistry. It is one of the very reasons he remains in the NBA, and why Smith opts not to give up that last roster spot to some young guy with potential.

Experience has its perks.

He has been hopping on those planes for 13 seasons now, a journey of professional and personal growth. His political awareness, appreciation for art, and taste for wine has evolved over the years, much like his role on the basketball court.

He played 10 seasons with the Golden State Warriors — starting in 269 games as a post-position player — before the two sides mutually agreed to part ways in 2007. Foyle has spent the rest of his NBA career with Orlando, expect for a brief period in Memphis after the Magic traded him as part of the deal to acquire Rafer Alston in February of 2009. Smith brought him back 21 days later after Memphis cut ties with Foyle, reflecting Smith's strong feelings of what he can bring to this franchise.

With each snippet of our conversation, ranging from campaign finance reform to the subject matter of the thesis he is working on — the struggles of retired NBA players — its' easy to see why Smith is so smitten. Foyle makes an impression.

None of this will ever show up on the stat sheet.

"Everybody thinks the game is the moment," Foyle said. "But basketball is about the world behind the game. The game is the easiest part of this life. To get to the game so many things must come together. That game becomes a performance. You have to do all the work of putting it together. There's a whole lot going on behind the scenes that people don't see."

In those private moments is where Foyle pushes Howard, not only with his muscle in practice, but with his words. He challenged Howard to work harder during a players' only meeting in late January, after the Magic barely beat the Boston Celtics. "The things that Adonal said were probably the most poignant things and really challenged a lot of guys, especially Dwight," teammate J.J. Redick said. "He has Dwight's respect, the franchise player."

On any given game night, Foyle will take notes on a stat sheet, helping prep all of Orlando's bigs — Howard, Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass — on nuances that will help them win battles up front. Against the Spurs, he urged Howard to go to the baseline because defenders were double-teaming him from the middle of the floor. He told Bass to adjust his shot by attacking the shoulder of a bigger defender, instead of trying to shoot over the top.

And then there are all those other conversations, on worldly topics.

A man who smiles easily, Foyle stormed off the practice court in late January, uncharacteristically furious. Elizabeth Brett, a Magic intern, asked him what was troubling him. Foyle was upset over a Supreme Court ruling, prohibiting the government from banning political spending by corporations

It's that passion that has driven him to start two foundations. Democracy Matters seeks to engage young people in the political process. The Kerosene Lamp Foundation promotes education and health awareness for kids, providing free basketball clinics and other opportunities. The name comes from Foyle's own experiences: Growing up in Canouan, an island in the southern reaches of the Caribbean, Foyle didn't have the luxury of electricity or running water. Because candles were too expensive, he studied with a kerosene lamp by his side.

Foyle can afford a few perks these days. His apartment is apartment-model immaculate, a few pieces of art and wine bottles dotting the walls. A miniature Magic basketball on the coffee table is the only giveaway that he has an interest in sports.

He travels when he wants. He has put his brother through school, and paid for his sister to go to culinary school and become a chef. Foyle didn't get the chef's gene. Making coffee is his one and only culinary talent. There's a lot of takeout food and eating out at Kres, Hue, or Ruth's Chris Steak House in Winter Park.

He plays racquetball at least once a week with Colon, his feisty nemesis who is much more apt to scream at the end of a point than Foyle. Colon got the better of him on Wednesday, without the advantage of seven racquets that Foyle brought with him in his gym bag.

This Magic thing is a good gig.

Foyle knows it. He sees himself as a vagabond traveling salesman, but he's never trying to dump anything on your doorstep under false pretenses. There is honor and passion in what he does. There is sweat. There is sacrifice.

And yes, there are perks.

On game nights, Adonal Folye has the best seat in the house.

Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last modified on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 19:55
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