Off the Rip

French baller Evan Fournier's path to the NBA started early.
by March 28, 2016

SLAM: Tell us about Saint-Maurice, France, your hometown.

Evan Fournier: It’s right outside Paris, a small town. The team was small.

SLAM: Both of your parents are competitive judo fighters, right? Did you want to compete in judo, too?

EF: When both your parents play the same sport, of course you’re interested. All they talked about at home was judo, basically. So I played a little. But it wasn’t as much fun as basketball, so I stopped pretty quick.

SLAM: When did you get into ball?

EF: I started playing when I was 8— that was in 2000—because the soccer team was full, actually.

SLAM: Were you good early on?

EF: Actually yeah, I was pretty good when I started. I was comfortable with a basketball in my hand.

SLAM: When you were 13, you were in a French basketball ad with Boris Diaw. How’d that come about?

EF: Oh yeah…it was an opportunity for a kid—me—to meet a great French athlete. It was basically like, I wanna do the same thing, I wanna be like Boris. I was super excited to meet him. Now it’s funny when we talk about it.

SLAM: You played junior ball at INSEP Academy. How’d you do?

EF: At first it was hard. I was so young playing against grown-ass men, so we used to lose every game by 20. But it helped me in a lot of ways—understanding what it takes to play against adults, getting used to that intensity, two practices a day.

SLAM: Did you look up to French players or NBA stars?

EF: I never looked at anybody like, “I have to play like this guy.” I was just looking at them like, “They are good.” Growing up, Manu [Ginobili] was about the same size. My favorite was Mike Bibby. But it was disappointing. I never had the opportunity to meet him.

SLAM: Did you root for the Kings?

EF: The Kings were my team. Aw man, they had the Europeans—Hedo Turkoglu, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic.

SLAM: They kinda played Euro-ball. How do young European players develop that style of play?

EF: It’s just the way we learn. We just do a lot of team drills, passing the ball—we don’t do a lot of individual workouts.

SLAM: What was the biggest on-court adjustment from France to the NBA?

EF: Bigger guys, and athletic. You don’t have a lot of guys like JaVale McGee or Ty Lawson—super fast—in Europe.

SLAM: What about off the court?

EF: I was super excited, but after a couple months—not playing much—I was homesick. I didn’t speak the language, but I got used to it. Now I love it, man.


SLAM: How bad was your English?

EF: Terrible. Terrible [laughs]. I could say hello, but I could not have a real conversation. I was struggling.

SLAM: Your nickname is More Champagne. What’s the deal with that?

EF: A reporter from Denver found it. There’s a rapper named 4-tay (Forte), and it’s from an old-school song, from the ’80s, I think. During the video, there’s a girl who asks, “Hey, Mr. Forte, would you like more champagne?” So, you know, 4-tay, Four-nier. I actually like it.

SLAM: Who’s the best French player in the League today?

EF: You gotta say Tony Parker for everything he has done. Even now. He plays for the Spurs, they are all about winning, but he can turn up.

SLAM: If you dropped the French national team into the NBA, how do you think it would it do?

EF: Oh, that’s a good question. Tony, Boris, Rudy Gobert, Joakim Noah, myself, Nicolas Batum—that’s a Playoff team for sure.

SLAM: Even in the West?

EF: The East is actually harder right now…

SLAM: That’s true—the East is nice.

EF: You should go take a look at it.

Images via Getty