After inking a lucrative five-year contract this month to return to the Washington Wizards, you might imagine that the rest of Marcin Gortat's summer would be dominated by rest, relaxation and the sort of high-rolling vacationing that a $60 million deal can provide. By the sounds of things, though, the 30-year-old Polish big man isn't feeling much like jet-setting these days.
In a revealing interview with journalist Donata Subbotko in the Polish publication Gazeta Wyborcza (as translated by Bartosz Bielecki for Wizards blog Truth About It), the always candid Gortat said he'd rather just stay close to home after traveling so much during the NBA season, especially after splitting up with his girlfriend of four years ("I don’t feel like flying anywhere just by myself") and finding it difficult to meet someone new due to his preference for ... well, let's let him explain it:
[...] I’m a loner. Even when I used to live with my girlfriend I often wanted to be alone. Sometimes I cut myself off from my friends, too. They go together to a club or a restaurant and I stay at home, and I’m not answering any phone calls.
What do you do then?
Gortat: I look at the wall. I look at a white wall and contemplate.
Gortat: About everything. About life, where I am, where I would like to be. I analyze my doings, situations, what would be good for me, and what would not. [...]
Does this white wall help you?
Gortat: I’m not sitting and rocking in the chair, but I’m reflecting on myself, I’m unloading the unnecessary tension. For instance, when I come back after a game in which I scored 30 points… For some it may seem like I’m a superstar now, but instead, I sit in front of this white wall and bring myself down. I scored today, tomorrow it’s going to be someone else. I’m not that good to become someone else. It is not enough. Every time, I analyze what I did good and what I did wrong.
I’ve changed a lot in myself over the past few years. I was a different person once. I cared for what was written about me, or what people that I didn’t know said about me. Today it doesn’t influence my well-being. When I came to the USA in 2005, I was a young buck, who had no idea about the world. The United States, the NBA, and basketball made a man out of me.
And, evidently, they've made him a man who stares at white walls.
Sometimes, when the white wall isn't helping him "find the balance," Gortat will switch things up and move his meditative efforts "in front of the aquarium."
I own a big one, with lionfish. I might buy sharks, too. I’m not interested in guppies. I prefer aggressive predators, probably because of basketball. It’s sometimes brutal on the court. I had to learn that, too.
There is, to be frank, a somewhat depressing tone pervading Gortat's remarks in the interview, whether describing the negativity he encounters from fans in his native Poland ("A large part of our nation are haters, jealous people, anonymously-writing Internet morons [...] They feel grief and jealousy that somebody has something, that someone has accomplished something"), the "extreme stress" under which he lives as an NBA player (to which he attributes, in part, his "receding hair" and near-baldness) and the drive he feels to "torture" and "punish" himself after making mistakes he believes he shouldn't have. It paints a pretty disquieting picture of what can go into not only becoming a from-the-ground-up NBA success story, but staying there amid constant competition and with at-times shaky support structures. It makes for a fascinating read, to be sure, but it also makes you want to, like, send him a "just because" Blue Mountain eCard to see if you can brighten up his day.
It's worth noting that Gortat also says he feels good playing in Washington, that he surrounds himself with people who "make me feel safe," and that he fells really fortunate to make millions of dollars to play a game that he enjoys. And there is also, of course, the chance that something's getting lost in translation here. But Gortat's candor also lays bare the often overlooked reality that, for everything that athletic stardom and a well-compensated life in the NBA affords you, it also takes some pretty important things away. Trying to replace them can lead you to search in some strange places ... like, for example, plain white walls.
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