Forbes no longer reluctant role model for those with diabetes

Perseverance, hard work puts Nuggets rookie in position to make an impact

When Gary Forbes was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2005, he wanted to keep the news quiet.

It was more of a survival instinct than a product of shame or embarrassment.

With NBA aspirations, Forbes didn’t want scouts, coaches and executives to view his disease as a sign of weakness.

Now that he’s starting to make a name for himself with the Denver Nuggets, Forbes is much more willing to share his story with others who face the daily challenges of living with diabetes.

Forbes and teammate Al Harrington took part in a youth basketball clinic Saturday for about 40 boys and girls with diabetes. The clinic was suggested by Forbes after he made Denver’s roster as a training-came invitee in October.

“I don’t think everybody’s that well-educated on diabetes,” Forbes said. “Hopefully, with these things that other athletes are doing, we can spread the message so people can be aware that it’s definitely a manageable disease.”

Other high-profile athletes such as former Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler and Miami Heat guard Jerry Stackhouse have enjoyed successul careers while living with diabetes. Forbes is happy to be part of that group as he gives advice to young people.

“As you can see, I’m here every day. I practice every day,” he said. “You can live with it, and if you work hard, you can be a professional athlete.”

Forbes was 20 years old when he lost about 20 pounds in one week and subsequently was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a pancreatic disease that prevents the body from producing the insulin necessary to convert food into energy.

The news didn’t come as a big surprise, considering Forbes had the genetic markers from his father and grandfather, who were both diabetic, but the timing was difficult. He was in the midst of his college career and wondered how diabetes would affect his path to the pros.

Forbes enjoyed a successful two years at the University of Massachusetts and was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year as a senior in 2008, but he went undrafted that summer. He played in the NBA Development League and overseas for two seasons before getting his most recent opportunity in Denver.

“Two years overseas and not getting drafted because of (diabetes), it definitely helped me mature and take care of myself,” Forbes said. “I know that there’s something bigger at stake, so taking care of my body, it’s kind of helped me. I want to live a long time and this has made me take care of myself, eat better. I’m always active being a basketball player, so that also helps.”

Forbes made his NBA debut on Oct. 27 against Utah and he started two of Denver’s first six games. Along with Melvin Ely and Shelden Williams, Forbes has been instrumental in helping the Nuggets succeed despite injuries to forwards Nene, Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin.

“Gary has gotten some opportunity because of the situation and I think he’s done great,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “His confidence for a young player is pretty impressive. He thinks he belongs out there. He plays with a lot more confidence and consistency than most young players.”

Forbes has come too far on his basketball journey to get complacent, and he hopes that he can continue to serve as a role model and inspiration to others with diabetes.

“This is the biggest thing I’ve done so far, and hopefully it can grow and I maybe I can get a charity started,” he said. “Definitely trying to get a cure for this thing.”


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