Q&A: Indiana Pacers Forward Danny Granger Talks Diabetes Awareness, Jay Z And Lamar Odom

Indiana Pacers’ own Danny Granger stays active even off the court. The forward and NBA partnered with the American Association of Diabetes for the Dribble To Stop Diabetes campaign this year to raise awareness on a topic that hits especially close to home. The eight-year veteran has several family members, including his father and grandfather, who suffer from type 2 diabetes. “Having firsthand experience about the disease and being familiar with it, I wanted to join to help others become aware of it,” he told VIBE. “I really think it goes under the radar.”

The partnership encourages basketball fans to live a healthy lifestyle and become more familiar about diabetes prevention and management. Granger’s personal connection with the illness made him an ideal candidate for ambassador of the initiative. Although he only participated in five games during the 2012-2013 season, the 6’8” swingman is anxious to help his team reach the NBA Finals this year. Here, Granger talks about his connection to the Dribble To Stop Diabetes campaign, his favorite basketball players who happen to rap and the current woes of his former USA Olympics’ teammate Lamar Odom.—Christopher Harris

VIBE: You sat out most of last year due to patellar tendinosis. How have you spent your offseason?
Danny Granger: Pretty much working out. I teamed up with the NBA to do a national month media campaign. It’s called Dribble To Stop Diabetes, in association with the American association of Diabetes. It’s an initiative to encourage basketball fans to live an active, healthy lifestyle and raise awareness on diabetes risk management. A lot of people aren’t aware of how high of a risk they are for type 2 diabetes. This is an initiative to kinda nudge them on the butt to go out and get tested.

How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?
As an athlete, I’m always on the move. I have the active part covered. I haven’t always been the best eater being raised in New Orleans. I tried to switch up my diets to include more foods that are healthier for my goals, which includes cutting out a lot of the fats, sugars and eating more vegetables.

The upcoming season is right around the corner. How will the team adjust to you being back in the lineup this year?
The adjustment will be really simple honestly. We’ve played the same way the last three years, regardless of the personnel we’ve had. We lost to the Heat 3 years ago, we took them to 7 games last year. it’s just a matter of us getting over that hump. For the most part, we’re trying to capitalize on what we did last year. We really think the sky is the limit. Anything less than a championship would be an unsuccessful season for us.

How do you think your chances are this year?
I think they’re good. We’ve added depth, we’ve added Luis Scola, who will help us tremendously. We added C.J. Watson, a veteran backup point guard. We also added Chris Copeland from New York, who’s kinda a sharp shooting four man – we’ve gotten a lot. With me being healthy, that’s another player, so I think we’re on the right path.

What are your thoughts on athletes signing with Jay Z?
I think it’s a very unique opportunity to get in with someone like Jay Z with his stature and what not. It has a lot of pros and cons. He’s set a lot of marks and broken records in the hip-hop industry but that doesn’t make him a good basketball agent. I think his influence transcends so many different areas of entertainment, whether it be professional sports, movies or music. It’s going to be interesting to see how much influence he’ll have on the NBA.

A lot of players are also rapping now.
I think it’s funny. I like it because they always say rappers want to be athletes and athletes want to be rappers. We have some guys who really have some talent. Stephen Jackson, a former teammate of mine, is actually a good rapper. Ron Artest, another former teammate of mine, has done some good things as well. It’s exciting to see them branching out to other opportunities. Hip-hop culture is really so inclusive now. So many races and different generations are involved. I have an older uncle who’s listening to Jay Z’s song. He’s probably 50 and listening to a Jay Z song. It’s really transcended everything. To see athletes turning to music, it’s fun to watch.

Who are your favorite ballers-turned-rappers?
I love Stephen Jackson. I remember when I played with him here and some of the stuff that he put out. I remember Shaq had a few albums. They were okay. I think A.I. (Allen Iverson) put out something that I had listened to. Actually, one of my teammates Paul George isn’t a bad rapper, he has a friend that he raps with and he does some good stuff too.

Lamar Odom seems to be going through a lot of trouble off the court these days. What do you believe is going on?
I know Lamar. I played with Lamar on USA Basketball. How much of it’s true and how much isn’t, I don’t know. I’m not going to be foolish enough to give my opinion on it. I wish him the best. He’s one heck of a basketball player, I know that firsthand. I’m just waiting on the day he’s back in the NBA because I still think he has a lot to offer a team.