Basketball is a year-round passion for veteran FC Barcelona forward Bostjan Nachbar. He spends roughly 10 months a year scoring baskets for his club and during many summers used most of his extra time suiting up for the Slovenian national team European or world championships. But regardless of his busy schedule, Nachbar has always made it a point to save some time to give back to his community.
In recent years, Nachbar can often be found volunteering for One Team projects to support those helped by Euroleague Basketball's corporate social responsibility program. But for almost a decade, he has also been active running his own charitable foundation and a basketball camp in Slovenia. And his involvement in both is easily defined as "all-in".
"Life is Basketball is a project that I started with some of my friends," Nachbar explained. "It's a basketball project that helps people who have difficulties in everyday life. People who need special attention, special care, but are still capable of playing basketball and enjoying basketball."
Life is Basketball works hand in hand with elementary schools, technology centers and occupational activity centers in the Slovenian cities Kranj and Koper to encourage mentally challenged people by using basketball to assist in their integration into society.
"We organize it every year," Nachbar said. "A lot of people show up and we have some Slovenian pro basketball players that put on a jersey and play together with those boys and girls. So far it's been a great event."
His involvement in Life is Basketball comes in addition to his skills-based camp held every summer since 2007 for boys and girls ages 8 to 17. And Nachbar lives that camp day and night, too.
"What we are doing in my basketball camp and my charity, I'm pretty much there 24/7. I'm dedicated to it,” Nachbar said. "I like to see the kids learn basketball. I like to see them grow. It's nice to see after six years some of the guys that picked up a ball for the first time and six years later they're joining the junior national teams. I think that's big for us. It gives me a lot of satisfaction. Personally I don't have anything else from it aside from the satisfaction of seeing those kids grow. It's great."
Nachbar's goals for the camp are obviously to help young basketball players get better and better. But even at his skills-based camp, there's more to it than basketball.
"We realize that not every kid that picks up a basketball is going to become a basketball professional. But there are so many more things connected to basketball that kids can do," he said. "I believe that if at an early age you are introduced to the game of basketball, and if later you stay in sports, whether it's being a professional, being a guy who works in basketball or just a fan of basketball or any other sport gives kids many more opportunities than sitting at home, playing video games or being out on the streets."
The work that Nachbar puts into his foundation and camp is not just because it makes him feel good. He feels that it is his duty to give back.
"Slovenia is a small country. So we try to do as much as we can to involve as many people as possible," Nachbar explained. "Cities like Koper do not have a top-level basketball team. So in the summertime we try to invite as many people as possible to Koper to enjoy basketball and also to enjoy the seaside and the Slovenian coast. The good thing is that more and more people are getting involved in the project and that's great to see, because we all know that basketball isn't just a game. Basketball can extend further than that and I'm happy to see this project and other projects in Slovenia develop into something bigger."
Part of his drive to give back comes from the relationships Nachbar sees between Turkish Airlines Euroleague players and their fans.
"With all the fan support that we have, I think it's a responsibility to show the people who support you, who watch you on TV, who watch you live in the arenas,” he said. "We as basketball players, just like any other athletes out there, I think we have to show the way."