The NBA’s Marcin Gortat–a ferocious looking 6’11” man with a beard, a shaved head, and surprisingly disarming smile–plays a mean style of basketball for the resurgent Washington Wizards. He attacks the basket, loves to dunk and treats every play as if it may be his last–or at least it seems that way. If he is a natural fighter, he comes by it honestly: his father is the retired light heavyweight boxer Janusz Gortat, an Olympic medalist for Poland. As for his uncommon grace in the air, that may derive from his mother, Alicja, who played on the Polish national volleyball team. Marcin has reached what on the (very youthful) Wizards is the grand old age of 30. Born and raised in Poland, he won a championship in Germany before coming to America to play. The Phoenix Suns, the Orlando Magic and now the Wizards have employed the versatile Gortat.
What they all know, and what most NBA fans are just finding out, is that Marcin Gortat is one of the best interviews in the NBA. He takes to the microphone with an obvious joy and will answer any question tossed his way as if it’s an alley-oop pass. Gortat just dunks them. When he plays well, there’s a twinkle in his eye and palpable joy as he admits he was “in the zone” and that it “was really fun” out there on the floor. The NBA playoffs, by the way, aren’t supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to be grueling–but no one told Marcin Gortat. He wouldn’t have listened anyway. Even if you said it in Polish or Serbian, the other two languages in which he’s fluent. His honesty and lighthearted style are rare in NBA press rooms. Gortat will even discuss his teammates’ mental states, a no-no in today’s closed NBA environment–where candor needs to be secretly taped! (And that link’s not even about Donald Sterling.) Gortat, for instance, talked freely about star point guard John Wall’s unusual behavior before a recent playoff game as if Gortat were just another fan watching from the outside. The Gortat press room appearances alone are a reason to root for the Wizards to keep winning.