James Gist (206-C-1986, college: Maryland) is a 36 year old 206cm center that was born in Silver Spring, Maryland and grew up in Olney, Maryland and is playing his 14th professional career and first with at Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul (Turkey-BSL). He began his basketball career at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. He then played at Maryland’ (NCAA) from 2004-2008. He was drafted at #57 in 2008 by the San Antonio Spurs. He then went overseas and has had an incredible career where he has won 16 professional titles and played a total of 287 Euroleague games. His most successful time was with Panathinaikos Athens where he played parts of 7 seasons. He also garnered experience in countries like Italy, Russia, Serbia, turkey, Spain, Greece, Germany and France. He spoke to eurobasket before a Basketball Champions League game against the Telekom Baskets Bonn.
Thanks James for talking to eurobasket.com. Where are you at the moment an dhow is basketball life treating you at the moment?
Thank you! I am currently playing basketball in Istanbul, Turkey for Bahceehir Koleji S.K. It hasn’t been the most successful season so far, but I believe our team will make things right by the end of the season.
Your playing your 15th pro season and have won 16 titles in your illustrious career. What keeps you going now at age 36?
It’s the motivation to win as much as possible while I still have the ability to play the game I love. I never had the attitude as a player to only play for money or no ambition. My goal has always been to win no matter where I am playing. I’m blessed to still be able to play the game I love after 15 years.
Your playing your first season with Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul (Turkey-BSL). What does it mean for you playing in the country where you were in born? Do you feel like you have a special connection to Turkey?
It is a very interesting fact that I was born in Turkey. People are always surprised when they hear that I was born in Adana. Istanbul is one the best cities that I have had and the opportunity to live and play basketball and it feels good to be back after 11 years playing in other countries.
It is your first season in 11 years not playing in the Euroleague. What kind of an experience has it been playing in the BCL? How much of a difference is it to the Euroleague?
It’s been a very interesting season in BCL for me. It’s a big difference from Euroleague when it comes to the quality of basketball however it is still very competitive and you have to respect all teams within the competition. On one hand, Euroleague is comprised of the top teams from each domestic league in Europe which is what makes that competition so competitive, and on the other hand, you have BCL which is probably the 4th and 5th best team from the domestic leagues around Europe. For me that is the only difference, but within both competitions you have some players with amazing talent.
What kind of an experience has it been playing for Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul (Turkey-BSL). How competitive is the BSL? How is this league different than other leagues you have played in?
Bahcesehir has been an amazing club to play for. They are a new team in the Champions League competition and they are fairly new to the Turkish League as well so they are trying to build a winning tradition within the club. The club is very professional and they have great potential to be a top team in any competition they play in. For me, the Turkish League has been one of the strongest domestic leagues in Europe when compared to Spain, France or the Adriatic League I would say that Turkish League could easily be 2nd or 3rd best domestic league in Europe.
You have had many many many incredible teammates in your career, but what has it been like being teammates with Mr Eurocup Jamar Smith? What have you appreciated most about his game and character?
Jamar Smith is great guy and we have really built a strong friendship that goes beyond basketball when we became teammates. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to play against Jamar a few times and I have always admired the type of player he was. He can score in many different ways at a very high level and for me I’m just happy to be on his team this year instead of being an opponent.
Last season you played with ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket (France-Betclic ELITE ProA) averaging 5.6ppg, 3.3rpg, FGP: 55.5%, 3PT: 26.1%, FT: 70.2%;and in the Euroleague averaged 6.0ppg, 2.5rpg, FGP: 54.3%, 3PT: 18.5%, FT: 53.3%. You won the Pro A title over Monaco in an exciting series. What was so special about this team?
I had a special tie with this team because the current owner of the team, Tony Parker, was a former teammate of mine when I played with the San Antonio Spurs. For me it was an easy decision when I received the phone call about Asvel wanting me to come play for them. We had a difficult season as a team in the Euroleague competition, however, we were able to turn things around and finish the season with a French League National Title. It means a lot to know that I have been able to play in many different countries and say that I was a champion there.
2 seasons ago you played with FC Bayern Muenchen (Germany-BBL) averaging 6.0ppg, 3.5rpg, FGP: 56.8%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 66.7%; and in the Euroleague averaged 5.6ppg, 3.0rpg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 16.7%, FT: 63.8%. What did you appreciate most about the famous German organization FC Bayern Munich and what did you enjoy most about the total experience?
Bayern Munich may have been the most professional organization that I had been apart of during my entire European career. I had the opportunity to be coached by one of the best coaches in Europe, Andrea Trinchieri, and I had the opportunity to play with some of the best young talent in Europe with Vladamir Lucic, Paul Zipser, Wade Baldwin and Jalen Reynolds. We had a very talented team and I know we would have been able to achieve so much more if we would have been able to have our fans at the games that season. Due to the pandemic and regulations that season we were unable to have fans at the games to witness how good we really were.
In the 2019-2020 season you played with KK Crvena Zvezda MTS Beograd (Serbia-KLS) aaveraging 11.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 59.3%, 3PT: 45.5%, FT: 72.3%; and in the Euroleague averaged 7.0ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 44.4%, 3PT: 21.1%, FT: 59.3%. You were teammates with Lorenzo Brown. He seems to have gotten better with age. Is he a role model for you?
Lorenzo is a good friend of mine and he was great to have as a teammate. It has been an honor to watch him grow over the past few seasons into one of the most dominant players in Europe at this point. His understanding of the game, athleticism, and ability to make all his teammates better is unmatched. He has been able to showcase his talent during the Eurobasket with Spain and now leading his team Maccabi Tel Aviv to a strong playoff run.
You spent 7 seasons with Panathinaikos Athens winning 11 titles. Were these 7 years the nicest in your career? What was your most fondest title with Athens?
Spending 7 years in Athens with a Panathinaikos was one of my most memorable moments during my European career. I reached a lot of milestones not only with basketball but also in life. My son was born in Athens and I also got married. I have a lot of really great memories from Greece.It’s not easy to pick just one title to say which was the best. If I had to choose I would probably say the first national championship that I won with Panathinaikos because we beat Olympiakos 3-0 and they were the current Euroleague Champions at the time.
You played for Rick Pitino. What kind of coach was he in Europe? Do you feel like he had to change his methods a bit from how he coached in the States.
Rick Pitino is a great coach. He understands what it takes to win at the highest levels and for this reason he will forever be a Hall of Fame coach. As a coach, you have to adjust to your players and understand how to motivate them to give the best performances. Every team is different and therefore the approach must be different, however, the message always remains the same. He was able to motivate our team and give us an idea that we can believe in, which lead to us winning 7 games in a row to finish the Euroleague regular season campaign and make the playoffs.
You played with so many incredible players like Mike James, Keith Langford, Antonis Fotsis, Ionnis Bourousis, Dimitris Diamantidis and Mike Batiste to just name a few. Which one of these players had the biggest impact on you?
I would probably have to say Diamantidis. Even though I had the opportunity to play with him in his final seasons, I was able to witness greatness. His work ethic, his IQ, and his passion to the game was one of kind. Once I got the opportunity to play alongside him, I realized why he was one of the greatest players to play the game.
From 2016-2018 you played 7 times against Luka Doncic posting a 2-5 record. What was your impression of him then and if some one had told you this guy would become a NBA superstar right away what would you have thought?
I would say the most impressive thing for me about Luka at the time was that he played on a very talented Real Madrid team at such a young age and the players and coach trusted him with the biggest moments. And Luka delivered every time. I knew he was special because he could do everything, my biggest question was always where is his limit. As a player you always look to improve each year in some aspect of your game. For Luka, he could shoot the ball extremely well, he has a very high IQ, he controls the pace of the game very well and he is not scared of the big moment. He had won the Eurobasket, he won Euroleague. Possibly one of the most decorated players coming from Europe to the NBA. I always wondered where is his limit because he has already done everything. At this point I think the only thing left for him to do is win an NBA Championship.
In the 2011-2012 season you had your first tour of duty in Turkey with Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul (Turkey-TBL) averaging 7.4ppg, 4.5rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 54.5%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 76.9%; in the Euroleague and in the Turkish League averaged 9.1ppg, 5.3rpg, FGP: 53.6%, 3PT: 32.7%, FT: 68.5%. What memories do you have of the TBL league from then to now. How has the league changed?
That year was much different than the rest because it was the time during the NBA lockout season so a lot of the NBA players had signed contracts in Europe and some of the players signed in Turkey. I had the opportunity to play alongside Thabo Sefolosha until the NBA lockout was over, and also was able to play an exciting game against Deron Williams during his time in Besiktas. The Turkish Basketball League has always been highly competitive, I think the main difference now is that there are more teams in and near to Istanbul now. Before, the only teams were Fenerbahce, Galatasary, Efes, and Besiktas.
In the 2010-2011 season you played for to BC Partizan MT:S Beograd (Serbia-A League) averaging 11.3ppg, 6.0rpg, 2.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 53.9%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 60.4%;and in the Euroleague averaged 11.4ppg, Reb-2 (6.9rpg), 1.6apg, 1.0spg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 34.4%, 3PT: 46.7%, FT: 68.1%. You were teammates with a very young Vladiimir Lucic. 10 years later you would be teammates with him again in Munich. How crazy was seeing the development he had made in 10 years?
Lucic has become one of the most iconic players in Bayern Munich history and I’m not surprised. He is tough and he has the Serbian mentality in his DNA. I’m never surprised by the development of any players from the Eastern European region or Ex-Yugoslavia. They breed some of the best basketball players in the world. It was an honor to be able to play alongside Lucic once more and I wish him nothing but health and continued success.
In 2009-2010 you played with Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia-A Superleague) averaging 11.4ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.5spg, Blocks-1 (1.2bpg), FGP: 45.0%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 70.0%. You were teammates with Gerald Green who had come to Russia after playing his first 4 years in the NBA: Some years later he returned to the NBA where he would have a long career. How much do you feel did he benefit from seeing a totally different world in Russia?
I think that Gerald Green was and still is an NBA talent. The time spent in Russia really motivated him to prove everyone wrong and show that he truly belongs in the NBA.
You played your rookie season with Angelico Biella (Italy-Serie A) averaging 13.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.7spg, FGP: 55.4%, 3PT-1 (50.6%), FT: 70.5%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being a rookie overseas where you knew that you were far away from home?
It would have to be when I arrived to my apartment building and I saw the size of the elevator. It was so small that my agent and I could barely fit in together. I couldn’t even bring my bags in the elevator it was so small. In that moment I knew I was no longer in America haha.
You were drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008 and played at 3 NBA Summer Leagues. What kind of feedback do you remember getting from coaches? Why didn’t a NBA career come out of it?
It was a difficult situation for me during that time. I was a rookie that came to San Antonio during a time where they were still making a serious championship run. And at my position I was playing behind. Theo Ratliff, Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner, Richard Jefferson, and of course Tim Duncan. There was no way I was getting minutes over those guys at the time and coach Popovich explained that to me. He also explained that he wanted me to get more playing time and experience and the only way to do that was to go to Europe. During those 3 seasons the Spurs kept my NBA rights but after my third year I no longer wanted to be patient with the process and I forced their hand for training camp which eventually led to my release. That was when I signed with Partizan and my Euroleague career began.
You played at Maryland (NCAA) from 2004-2008. You reached the NCAA tournament in 2007 and left the school as the second best shot blocker. What was your fondest moment there?
College in America was probably the best 4 years of my life as a young adult. I was able to play for one of the top colleges in the country in one of the best leagues in the country and for one of the best coaches to ever coach. I would say that my best memory was beating UNC (North Carolina Tarheels) on their home court when they were 17-0 on the season. We handed them their first loss of the season and I will forever remember that moment. Also I must add that there was no greater feeling than beating Duke University at their home arena as well. That was one of the biggest rivals in college basketball at the time so we always had great battles.
How did head coach Gary Williams groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Coach Williams taught me how to be a student of the game of basketball. He taught me how to watch film and to understand how simple the game can be. One of the greatest lessons a coach could teach me.
Who won a 1-1 in practice you or Ekene Ibekwe?
Honestly, I don’t believe Ekene and I ever played 1 on 1. As a team we were all very competitive and we all loved basketball. We would play 5 on 5 everyday, even in the offseason when many ex-players returned and NBA players as well. We played for so many hours all the time it just became second nature and part of our daily routine. But I don’t believe Ekene and I ever played 1 on 1.
Who is the best player that you ever faced in the NCAA that reached the NBA?
The best player I ever guarded was probably between Craig Smith who was at Boston College or Al Thornton who played at Florida State. I also had the luxury to play against Chris Paul and JJ Reddick as well. I’ve shared the court with many great players, honestly too many to name, but Craig Smith and Al Thornton were my biggest matchups.
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Marcus Williams, Dimitris Diamantidis, Gerald Green, Mike Batiste, Stephane Lasme
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore?
Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal
What is your opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron and why isn’t Kobe mentioned more?
For me Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time. Lebron will have the best numbers in every statistical category and we may never see someone pass his stats for many many years. Kobe will forever be mentioned because of the ‘Mamba Mentality’ and only the fans who followed Kobe and Jordan their entire careers would be able to say how great those two players really were.
Did you see the sequel to the classic Coming To America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?
Unfortunately, I did not see the sequel to the classic Coming To America. I’m just not a big fan of remakes and sequels to all-time classics. I believe they should all be left alone.
Thanks James for the chat
Tags : JAMES GIST, BAHCESEHIR KOLEJI ISTANBUL, GERMAN BASKETBALL