Marcin Being Gortat: The Polish Forbes Interview | Wizards Blog Truth About

Marcin Being Gortat: The Polish Forbes Interview

Updated: February 17, 2015

Toward the end of January, Marcin Gortat was interviewed by Tomasz Jóźwik for Polish Forbes Magazine. TAI’s Polish Correspondent, Bartosz Bielecki, naturally transcribed the article in English so that the mind of Gortat can be shared outside of the Polish language. Keep reading for Marcin-isms on his finances and investments, his “black soul,” whether or not he drives fast anymore, Polish patriotism, and the “Gortat Brand.”



FORBES: Before the season, the coach motivated you to play your career-best season. Will you be able to do it?

Gortat: Surely it’s my most complete season in the NBA. I’ve had better individual stats before, but if you included team’s wins, and that’s what counts the most, you could say that this season is very good. There is a chance that it will be the best one in my career.

Not only are you delivering points and rebounds, but also you’ve become one of the leaders of the team…

Gortat: The reality of the NBA is that a leader is a man who has a right to hold the ball longer, take the clutch shots. He’s the one to carry the team to a win. For the eight years of being in the NBA, I was gaining experience, learning what does it mean to be a pro basketball player. I improved my stats, I played in the finals. My role, in the teams that I played for—in Orlando, in Phoenix, and now in Washington—grew gradually. But I’m not the team leader, especially that we have such players as Paul Pierce, John Wall, Nene, and some other older and more experienced players than me.

Teammates say you have a black soul. What does it mean?

Gortat: It has something to do with my basketball education. When I played in Germany, I was spending a lot of time being surrounded by American players. I was curious how the NBA looks, how is life there. I felt good around them, because I could communicate in English. I quickly learned the slang of black players. I contracted their sense of humor and it quickly became my nature. I like to laugh, that’s why I often fool around and clown in the locker room, on the plane or on the bus, hoping that everyone will laugh out loud.

It’s your eighth year in the States. Have you changed more as a man or as a player?

Gortat: I’ve changed in both of those aspects. It’s inextricably linked together. I learned here that life is about the effort, devotion, and trying. It’s about, what Americans call “a good effort,” which means that you can get up in the morning and fully devote yourself to making your dreams come true. For me it was making it to the NBA, then surviving in the league, and becoming a better player. You wake up in the morning with sore ankles, knees, spine, and you have to fight it every day. You have to go to the gym and endlessly repeat the same exercises. Shoot, and shoot… That’s what ultimately molded my personality in the States.

You’re changing, but the passion for fast cars still remains. You’ve got a Ferrari, Porsche, BMW and a Mercedes … but the roads in Washington are supposedly bad.

Gortat: Very bad. I hope they’ll fix them, because when it’s raining or snowing, it covers the holes, which are so big that you can damage your rims and tires. It happened to me a few times already.

I’ve also got an SUV and a pickup. I used to have the most fun with the 800-horsepower BMW, but I’ve kind of grown up. I plan on selling that car, but it won’t be easy. I dedicated myself to that car, it’s my little love. I’ve got to sell that car somewhere to the other side of the world, so I can’t see it anymore.

The record—190 miles per hour—won’t be broken?

Gortat: Surely not. I don’t want to say I sobered down, but I very rarely go over the speed limit. I live close to the gym, I don’t have to rush anywhere.

Do you sometimes race off the traffic lights?

Gortat: No, and I never did it. NBA players are not allowed to do that. It happened once that I drove fast on a highway. I got carried away. Was that reasonable? Probably not, but when you already have a sports car, you want to feel the adrenaline. Like I said, I don’t drive fast anymore. I’ve got too much to lose.

How else—besides the cars—do you spend money?

Gortat: I don’t change cars too often. I did it recently, after five years, because I signed a new contract with the Wizards. I don’t have any other expensive hobbies. I also spend money on clothes, mainly on suits, but that’s only about $25-35 thousand a year. I don’t wear diamond necklaces or stuff like that.

But you were photographed wearing gold chains…

Gortat: It was just for fun. The jewelry wasn’t even mine. I try to invest in my future, build a financial platform that would be really strong in a few years.

What do you invest in?

Gortat: I’m not interested in high profits, but the stable and relatively sure ones. My investments are very diverse. It’s the stocks, obligations, land, real estate. I’m in a partnership with a few companies. I surround myself with specialists and counselors who know their way around various kinds of assets, but they also have a great knowledge of economics.

Do you check on it on a daily basis, or are you getting reports every month or so?

Gortat: I’m getting reports from different areas of my investments regularly. Differently constructed, and in various frequencies, but everyday I’ve got something to look into. I like to know what is going on with my money. I like being up to date. Additionally, I learn some new things.

Do you have your own investment ideas or are those things prompted by your counselors, and you only say “yes” or “no”?

Gortat: Most of the offers I get from my counselors but I have my own, too. We’re trying to manage it in such a way that new investments fuel what we’ve done earlier. The result is I largely increased the money I made as a player.

Can you give an example of an investment that you’ve come up with by yourself?

Gortat: Most of it is real estate. For example in Łódź.

Do you invest more in Poland or in the States?

Gortat: It’s quite even between the two countries, between different kinds of assets. Your portfolio has to be diversified, accordingly to the rule that you don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Thanks to that diversity I’m able to meet new people and develop on multiple grounds.

Do you invest on the Warsaw Stock Market, too?

Gortat: As of now, only on Wall Street. And we’re doing really good. I’m building my portfolio calmly. I’m going to need that money in five or six years, once I’m retired.

More than 70 percent of American pro basketball players go bankrupt when they’re done playing. Aren’t you afraid of that statistic?

Gortat: The average budget of an NBA player is $50-60 thousand a month. For that money they can maintain 2-3 houses, and 4-8 cars. The insurance alone is expensive. After 10 years you retire, and then realize that you can only spend 10-15 thousand a month. A large number of players cannot accept it and they live the way they used to, until they run out of money.

Personally, I can’t be 100 percent sure that I won’t lose the assets I accumulated. Any time there can be a war or things can go wrong, and American economy can go down. I’m not afraid, though, that it would happen because of my sloppiness or my life style. I’m working with high-class specialists in money management, and I have a lot of valuable contacts. I’m trying not to make any misguided moves that could deplete my estate. However, some business mistakes occur sometimes, and it hurts.

The name Marcin Gortat has become a brand. Do you want to gain something from it?

Gortat: Yes. My next dream is to be remembered. For who I was, and what I did. I’m consequently going in that direction—on, and off the court. I’m really engaged in charity work. On one hand, it gives me a lot of fun, and on the other hand, it fulfills my inner need of sharing. I want to give back to the community this way. I want to thank the people who support me, who root for me. I’ve also got the satisfaction that I don’t need to sell my private pictures or to schedule a session with paparazzi, or say something outrageous, for people to write about me. Thanks to the position I’m in, I can create new projects, which makes me happy. Projects like supporting the army or children’s development.

Playing in the NBA is stressful. You shoulder the burden of some more things, and in the summer, instead of resting, you drive around Poland organizing camps for kids. Not too much of a burden?

Gortat: Sometimes it is. People don’t realize with how much mental pressure, and physical exhaustion, NBA players have to deal with. When I wake up in the morning, sometimes it hurts so much that I can barely get to the bathroom. It’s not like I practice for two hours, I play a game every few days and that’s it. I’m at work the whole day. When I’m not practicing or playing, I’m obliged to think what I’ll do tomorrow. When I play a bad game, an agent or a manager comes up and asks what happened. You play a couple of bad games and you get benched. But that’s the road I chose, and I can’t all of a sudden say: “Hi, I’m done. Carry on without me.” Maybe eventually it will happen. For now, my house is my only sanctuary. Here I can always hide, and get some inner peace, when I’m tired of everything.

Are you considering promoting the Gortat brand in the USA as well?

Gortat: My associates often think about it, and they suggest we should open up a little more on the American market. I’m not totally convinced, because I think there is a lot more to do in Poland than in the USA. Here, all the different projects I’m involved in are organized by my team. If I had to engage on my own, I wouldn’t have enough of energy to work in Poland. And I’d like to have some private time, too—start a family when I’m 40, shoot with my son on the hoop mounted above the garage.

I focus on Poland, and I’d rather be on the cover of the Polish edition of Forbes than on the American. Maybe some manager or businessman will read what I have to say, and he will think that this Gortat guy is a cool dude, he does valuable stuff, and it’s worth joining him. Maybe someone will send their kid to one of my summer camps and the kid will become a good player?

You could say that you’re a patriot—is that one of the reasons why you’re supporting all those charity-social projects in Poland?

Gortat: Yeah, I am a patriot. I think rationally. In the States, a 15-year-old basketball player has five pairs of shoes, his team receives jerseys from the sponsors, support from the school, and a bus to travel with a day before the game. In Poland, the same team would ride a public bus straight to the gym, each player would have one pair of shoes, and one set of jerseys for four seasons. I trained in Poland, in the gyms where windows were smashed, and during the winter, snow would fall inside. Do the States need that support or Poland? If one day some young man achieves success, gets called to play for the national team, or even plays in the NBA, and then says that he started playing at the Gortat Camp, and thanks to the foundation he was given a better chance to develop, I will say that this is one of the biggest achievements of my life. Those are the things I work for.

Apart from the social and charity work, you also support the army. Why?

Gortat: My dad used to be in the military. Army and military is my hobby. I’m interested in the gear, tactics, and weapons. I like watching how it looks from inside. The aim of my work is to restore the respect that’s due to the uniform. Particularly, I don’t like how we treat the veterans in Poland, who fought on the missions abroad. They train hard for many years to risk their lives for us. People who go on missions are going through hell. I had an opportunity to be in Afghanistan and—I assure you—it’s not idyllic. Not everyone gets the chance to return home. Meanwhile it’s surprisingly easy for us to write unfair opinions about them on the internet while sitting in a cozy armchair. But, if it wasn’t for the devotion of the soldiers, a man wouldn’t be able to sit safely in a warm apartment. Sometimes we forget that a capable army makes for the strength of the nation.

That’s a very American motivation.

Gortat: I’m not denying that the projects involving the army were inspired by the USA. Here, the cult of the veterans is very strong. I’ve seen many times people spontaneously approaching the soldiers to thank them for their service. Once, I saw a petite woman in the uniform. It was clear that she wasn’t running with a gun, but she rather did some paperwork in an office. But it doesn’t matter. People still approached her to shake her hand, and say some warm words, because she contributes to the safety of her country as well. The moment when 20 thousand people at the game get up and cheers for the veterans of war, it’s beautiful. It’s not like that in Poland yet, but I have a dream to change it. I want to contribute. That’s one of the reasons I organize the “Gortat Team vs. Polish Army” game every year. That’s why I visit the military bases, that’s why I organize the camps for the kids of soldiers, that’s why I invite the families of fallen heroes to the States.

Would you be ready to go on a mission as a soldier?

Gortat: After adequate training—of course. It’s a tremendous honor to fight for your country. Would I be happy being there, on a mission? I doubt it. I’m glad there is no need for me to go there, and I can contribute in different ways.


[image via @PawelStalmach]

[image via @PawelStalmach]

Bartosz Bielecki on Twitter
Bartosz Bielecki
Polish Correspondent at TAI
Bart is TAI’s Polish correspondent, covering all things Marcin Gortat from the mother country, including transcribing Gortat interviews with Polish media.