Former Nuggets big man Camby still has strong ties to Denver

Portland center made lasting impact on and off the court

Nearly 16 years after being the No. 2 overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft , Marcus Camby remains a shot-blocking and rebounding force.

The Portland Trail Blazers center was a fan favorite during his six years with the Denver Nuggets from 2002-08. He averaged, 11.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.03 blocks with the Nuggets and was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2006-07.

Camby, 37, is still second on the Denver’s all-time blocked shots chart, and his charitable contributions in the community were equally long-lasting. As part of his Cambyland Christmas, he took underprivileged children on shopping trips, and he also funded scholarships as part of his mentoring program.

Though he no longer plays in Denver, Camby has continued with his charity work in the city. Last November, he purchasing 1,000 Thanksgiving meals for the homeless.

With Portland making its first trip to Denver this season, Camby talked to about several topics, including how this season has been different with the condensed schedule, his favorite moments with Nuggets coach George Karl, and his charitable work in Denver.

Q: How is your season going so far?
A: I think it has been up-and-down. We have been dealing with a lot since training camp: from Brandon Roy’s retirement, last week Greg Oden needing another knee surgery, and just our inconsistent play through this brutal season. Right now we are sitting in the eighth spot with 32 games left, so we know have to finish up strong.

Q: With you already having gone through a condensed season before, what is some advice you are giving your younger teammates who are used to a normal 82-game season?
A: I just told guys to take care of their bodies. Those back-to-back-to-back games, especially with all the traveling that we’re doing, rest is adequate and you have to get that. You know some nights it’s not going to be your night, but the good thing about the NBA is that we have those back-to-back games; so the following night you can redeem yourself.

Q: You were a fan-favorite in Denver during your time here. What were some of your favorite memories?
A: Probably the first year we had Carmelo (Anthony) and us making the playoffs. The Northwest championships that we won, all the great players I had a chance to play with while I was here: from AI (Allen Iverson), Kenyon (Martin), and just watching Nene blossom and his natural progression each year, Finally, to winning Defensive Player of the Year. I had a lot of great times here. I miss the place, I miss the community. Even though I was gone, I was still doing charitable work around the city. I definitely miss the community a lot.

Q: As big as an impact you had on the court, you had a bigger one in the Denver community with your Cambyland Christmas and other charitable work. What are you still doing to be involved with that in Denver?
A: Yeah, I still do a lot of things here in Denver. For the last six or seven years, I have partnered with the Volunteers of America and I personally purchased a 1,000 Thanksgiving meals for the homeless. I have been doing that ever since I was traded from here. It is all about giving back. As athletes, we have been blessed with so much, so it’s our part to give back to the community, and I’m a big advocate of that.

Q: When you are done playing, are you going to continue your charitable work in Denver?
A: Oh yeah, this is like my second adopted home. I spent six years here, and feel I had my best years here, both on and off the court. You know I would love to be involved in this organization in some capacity when I’m done playing.

Q: Coach Karl considers you one of his favorite players he has ever coached because of your basketball IQ and the intangibles you brought to the game. What are some of your favorite moments with Coach?
A: George has a great basketball mind. I mean the plays that he can draw up and calls are automatic buckets. He loves the game. Considering how much he has been through heath-wise off the court, to see him still have that passion for the game is remarkable. He is one of my favorite coaches I have ever played for, and every time I come here and play him, I make sure I go over and give him and hug and tell him I love him and miss him. He is a great-great guy.

Q: Seeing as it close to March, who do you like to go far in the NCAA Tournament?
A: (laughing) Coach (John) Calipari and Kentucky, baby! I really like that (Anthony) Davis kid. I hear people compare him to me. I think he is a great kid, but at that age I think he is way better than I was just watching him play. He is well-coached, and look at Coach Cal’s track record with the guys he has put in the league: Myself, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and the list goes on and on.

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