Former Warriors center Adonal Foyle is unlike any other NBA player. Not only is he the franchise’s all-time leading shot blocker, he’s acknowledged around the Bay Area as a team community ambassador. In his second act, after retiring from the league in 2010, he has continued to stay involved with the team and has successfully reinvented himself as a published author, TV analyst and life-skills consultant for today’s players. San Francisco recently caught up with the former Warriors big man. We discussed life after basketball and the legacy Foyle hopes to impart.
How did you plan for life after basketball?
I started thinking about my career beyond basketball after my very first NBA game as a rookie in 1997. But it wasn’t my intention to think about a postplaying career. After spending the game practically getting run over by Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves, I met with my adoptive father, Jay Mandle, after the game to see how he felt about my first game. He asked, ‘What do you plan on doing after you’re done playing?’ I was just getting started in my NBA career, and he was asking me that. Since that moment, that question had always been part of my mindset. I prepared myself by having the necessary education to be prepared for that next chapter. I pursued a master’s degree in sports psychology.
Then I went back and got an MBA in conjunction with the National Basketball Retired Players Association. After that, I wanted to make sure that I continued to help players. So I started writing. My first book, Winning the Money Game: Lessons Learned From the Financial Fouls of Pro Athletes ($19, HarperCollins), spoke on the relevant issues that players were dealing with, primarily maintaining their finances so they can be secure once they’re done playing. I also wrote The Athlete CEO ($14, theathleteceo.com), which helps athletes answer questions on how they can navigate their professional careers outside the basketball court or playing field. I’m currently working on another book, Winning the Transition Game, which talks about transitioning from playing career to postplaying career and how that phase will impact them.
What are the biggest pitfalls for people in successful positions?
The pitfalls are that you have to not only plan to change your mindset when it comes to approaching transition, but you also have to have your resources in order. I always tell players that they need to save enough money so that, when they retire, it will allow them the freedom to try out different things. Before he officially retired, Shaun Livingston was talking to me about the importance of saving enough money in order to be ready for that next chapter. If a player doesn’t retire with the proper education and resources, that’s when you hear about players who are broke or are struggling to have a different career. So it’s important to have those resources saved up because it will help you gain the knowledge, or maybe even try another career if the first one doesn’t work out.
Foyle and fellow Golden State Warriors team members celebrating a victory with adoring fans in downtown Oakland.
What impact have you had?
I’ve always strived to be that voice of reason and continue to raise the issues. It ultimately becomes up to the players to really embrace it and embody it. To me, it’s initiating those conversations and asking the difficult questions. But, again, it’s up to the player to decide what he wants to do with that information. I have had players approach me and thank me for the insight I gave them, and [they’ve said] that it has really helped them think about their transition process. And it’s not just basketball. Mark Munoz, who retired from UFC competition a few years ago, told me that I was helpful in helping him prepare for his next chapter. Today, you’re seeing leagues—like the NBA and NFL—are now seriously considering programs that will help players transition when they’re done playing, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
You mentioned all the books you’ve written (and are working on). Why did you also decided to write a children’s book series?
The children’s book idea really came from me wanting to reconnect with the kids in the Caribbean. And what better way to do that than to tell my story about discovering my passion, which was basketball. That’s the premise of my first children’s book, Too-Tall Foyle Finds His Game ($14, tootallfoyle.com). I also wanted to share the value of telling stories. When we make it in our sport, or in our career, we often forget about how difficult that journey was to get to where we are. So I want to let the kids know that I failed a lot of times, and I continue to fail. But that is also the reason why I am where I am in my life.
Looking back at your career with the Warriors, what is the greatest lesson you learned?
The greatest lesson for me has always been to have a healthy balance between sports and academics.