Steinmetz: Class all the way to the end

Adonal Foyle should have been one of the most despised players in recent Warriors history. The fact that he wasn’t speaks to one thing and one thing only: How good of a human being he is.

Over the past dozen or so years, Warriors fans have had their fair share of hometown villains: Chris Webber, Latrell Sprewell, Mike Dunleavy, Nick Van Exel, Erick Dampier and Mookie Blaylock, to name some.

Foyle, whose contract was bought out by the Warriors on Monday, should be on this list.

He was selected with the No. 8 overall pick in the 1997 draft, one spot ahead of Tracy McGrady, a seven-time NBA All-Star. Foyle’s best season — statistically, at least — was in 2000-01, when he averaged 5.9 points and seven rebounds per game for a team that won all of 17 games.

Foyle is an undersized center who is limited offensively. He’s a bad free-throw shooter and he doesn’t have good hands. In 2004, Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin signed Foyle to a five-year, $41 million contract.

Those kinds of facts and figures should have conspired to render Foyle hated among fans. Not at all. Instead, Foyle has been one of the most respected and well-liked athletes in Bay Area sports history.

The phrase “great guy” is thrown around too often these days. But make no mistake, Adonal Foyle is a great guy. Not by NBA-player standards, but by regular-guy standards. Foyle is more classy, more forthright and more honorable than people like you and me.

The NBA is often a league of immaturity. That’s why grownups stand out in it. And no one stood out more than Foyle. Amid all the Warriors’ lows of the past 10 years, Foyle always remained above the fray.

In any setting, whether it was on the court, in the locker room or out in the community, Foyle comported himself with dignity.

When I was a beat writer covering the Warriors early in Foyle’s career, I once wrote about how he had fumbled a plethora of passes in a Warriors loss. The next day, I walked into the locker room, where I encountered Foyle.

He was shaking his head with a smile and in his hand was a game videotape. As he handed the tape to me, he said: “Find a plethora in there.”

I went back, took a look and sure enough he had only dropped a couple of passes — far less than a plethora. That didn’t necessarily prove his hands were good, but it did reflect on Foyle’s good nature, sincerity and positiveness.

It wasn’t Foyle’s fault that P.J. Carlesimo — after the firing of Dave Twardzik but before the hiring of Garry St. Jean — took him too soon in that summer of 1997. And it wasn’t Foyle’s fault that he was given a big contract three years ago.

Let’s face it, Foyle was never more than a role player on the court for the Warriors. Fair enough. But as a citizen and role model, Foyle remains a perennial first-teamer.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.


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