May 8, 2016
Former Long Beach State basketball player Edgar Garibay is making a name for himself in his native Mexico.
As one of the top Mexican talents on a basketball court over the past two years, Edgar Garibay has gone on to represent his country in international play.
He played for Mexico in the 2015 Pan American Games last summer and on May 15, he will join Mexico’s national basketball team once again to prepare for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
He is also one of the Mexican National Professional Basketball league’s best players, winning the 2016 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award.
But two and a half years ago, Garibay sat on a tiny bench in Cal State Long Beach’s upper campus, filled with uncertainty about his future. His nearly 7-foot frame looked uncomfortable, but remained still for half an hour as he talked about his injury plagued college career.
“I was debating whether I should give up [basketball] completely or still give it a try, leaning more towards an early retirement,” Garibay admits now. “I started graduate school and decided to focus on my academics.”
In December 2013, Garibay was 23 years old and recovering from the second ACL tear in his young basketball career. At the time, the power forward/center was supposed to be in the middle of his senior season with the Long Beach State men’s basketball team, a likely starter because of his versatility as a big man.
Instead, Garibay found himself dressed in a suit and tie on game days as he encouraged his fellow teammates from the bench. He tried to remain positive and said he was determined to make his way back onto a basketball court. The trouble with furthering his basketball career was that Garibay would have to find a professional team willing to take him and his bad knee in.
Today, at 26 years old, early retirement is a distant thought for Garibay. Soon after his final season at LBSU in 2014, teams from his native country came calling.
“Most teams I spoke with knew my injury history, but were still willing to give me a chance,” Garibay said. “Especially since I am able to play in Mexico as a local and not an import.”
Garibay was born in Ocotlan, Jalisco, Mexico, a small city an hour outside of Guadalajara. He came to the United States at an early age, grew up in Compton and played basketball for Compton High School.
“All I needed was my Mexican passport and the support of teams looking to add me to their roster,” Garibay said. “I was a lot more sought after than expected, which encouraged me and gave me that little light of hope that I needed to push through and continue this journey.”
During LBSU’s 2013-14 season, men’s basketball head coach Dan Monson said he had the “utmost respect” for Garibay. He predicted that his sidelined power forward/ center would find success in life because of his perseverance, whether it was on a court or off of it.
“He has fought through adversity his whole life and has never used it as an excuse. Basketball, injuries, academics, personal or other setbacks do not define Edgar,” Monson said. “How he handles those adversities has.”
Now a star in his own right, Garibay is enjoying the success Monson foresaw. Sure, the Mexican league pales in comparison with a league like the NBA, but Garibay said the basketball scene in Mexico is growing and professional players do live comfortably.
“I personally have been lucky enough to play for good teams with good upper management in really nice cities like Cancun, Mazatlan and Mexico City,” Garibay said. “The cost of living also doesn’t compare to the U.S., so that helps me live a very comfortable life.”
Garibay said the real sacrifice isn’t a monetary one; instead it is living away from his mother, brothers and niece, all of whom remained in the U.S.
“Having to experience certain things through social media instead of live and in person [is tough]. Things like graduations, birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving,” Garibay said. “Not being to watch my little niece grow up. There [are] a lot of things you don’t realize you’re going to have to sacrifice when you sign up for this type of career.
“When I talk to people back home they don’t understand, they don’t put everything into perspective. They think I’m out here living a great life with no cares or worries in the world. They just see the posts on social media of the different cities I get to travel to, or an occasional selfie [with] my dinner by the beach.”
Garibay conceded that there are perks to being a professional athlete and said he considered himself in a privileged position.
“Don’t get me wrong, these are all great experiences and memories that I consider priceless, but social media also doesn’t show the grind, the struggle, the sweat, the bumps and bruises,” Garibay said. “They don’t tell you that once you get home sick after a few months, you aren’t able to just get up and leave and come home when you want. You are stuck there until the job you signed up to do is finished.”
The uncertainty that plagued Garibay two and a half years ago is gone.
He knows what his goals are and what he has to do to accomplish them. Garibay wants to better his game to become the greatest Mexican power forward/center when he hits his prime in a year or two, a title that former NBA player and current Real Madrid star Gustavo Ayon holds.
Garibay also wants to be a champion in Mexico and continue representing his homeland for years to come.
Off the court, the CSULB graduate wants to continue his master’s degree; something he put on hold when his basketball career took off. He said he is “flirting” with the idea of attending law school and plans on starting a project that will focus on giving back to impoverished youth in both Mexico and the U.S.
“I’m working on a nonprofit that’s going to be dealing with underprivileged kids from urban neighborhoods like the one I grew up [in],” Garibay said. “I want to partner up with different high schools and collegiate sports programs and assign mentors and big brothers and sisters to kids and athletes of similar backgrounds. I want to show these kids that anything is possible regardless of the circumstances or lack of resources available to them.”
Support for his ideas is slower than Garibay would like at the moment, but said he believes he’ll receive aid soon. He plans on working with city officials directly.
Like his basketball career, he won’t give up on his projects.