From two generations of Harlem Globetrotters, the Forbes siblings are ready for center stage
Story by JIM MCCUE | Photos by JAMES K. LEASH
The family that plays together … keeps playing together and extends a basketball legacy for another generation.
The Forbes family of Folsom is deeply involved in hoops in their community, from playing and coaching at Folsom High to teaching and reaching out to aspiring young players.
“From a young age, we knew that the game was about more than just winning and losing,” said McKenzie Forbes, a junior at Folsom and the youngest of four basketball-crazed children. “It’s about bringing people together. We learned that early and have really taken that with us.”
McKenzie and older brothers Mason, Max and Marcus received outstanding hoops genes along with basketball knowledge and life lessons passed down by two previous generations of professional basketball players. Their grandfather, Sterling Forbes, played at Pepperdine University before being drafted by his hometown Lakers. After a back injury cut his NBA career short, he played with the Harlem Globetrotters in the early 1960s.
Their father, Sterling Forbes, Jr., played at Southwest Texas State before following in his father’s footsteps and joining the Globetrotters in 1988 after a brief pro stint in Argentina. Dad retired in 1995 before the oldest of his and wife Sasha’s kids, Marcus, was born. Despite never watching their father play for the Globetrotters, the Forbes family was regularly in attendance at the traveling team’s exhibitions in California, exposing the children to the sport that they would grow to love.
That love was seasonal for the Forbes children as soccer, baseball and football all had their time. As long as there was a ball and a place to play, the Forbes were game and among the best and most competitive.
“We tried everything,” said Mason, a junior center/forward for the Bulldogs. “We played every sport until we got to high school and narrowed it down to just basketball.”
Sterling, Sr. would not wake up his son for early basketball games on the weekend, but would rather wait in his bedroom for young Sterling, Jr. to come to him to ask to take him to the game.
“He made sure that I really wanted to play,” he said. “He didn’t want to push me into the game and I felt the same way with my kids.
“I always thought that if they like it, I will teach them to the best of my ability what I’ve learned, and if they didn’t like it, that was fine. At the end of the day, you just want your kids to be happy.”
As it turned out, basketball is what made the kids and the family happiest.
“Pressure can be so heavy on kids to perform,” said Lynn Wolking, the Folsom girls varsity coach and longtime friend of the Forbes family. “(Sterling and Sasha) are there for them, and that lack of pressure from their parents matters.”
The pressure-free results have paid dividends for the Forbes and for local high school basketball programs. Marcus was a guard at Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs before becoming a student-athlete at Occidental College in Southern California. Max is a senior at Folsom, and will be asked to fill the void left by a large group of graduated Bulldogs. He has been offered a walk-on spot at San Jose State, but he will weigh his college options to pursue his academic and athletic dreams.
The best, or at least the most sought after, talent from the Forbes family are Mason and McKenzie. Both are juniors — born 16 months apart but as close as if they were twins — and are gaining increased recruiting interest after solid sophomore seasons and impressive AAU campaigns over the summer.
Mason is a 6-foot-7 center who grew into his body and an expanded role over two seasons and 55 wins with the Bulldogs, including a Sac-Joaquin Section title and NorCal Open Division invitations. As a sophomore, he averaged 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as the lone underclassmen in head coach Mike Wall’s starting lineup.
“He has gone from understudy to starter/role player to the leader and go-to guy for our team,” Wall said. “He is a nightmare matchup because he can guard smaller or bigger guys. He is big and mobile, and those are the guys that go on to the next level.”
McKenzie has already surpassed her siblings in letters of interest from Division I programs, but that is one of very few things that she isn’t competitive with her siblings about. As the youngest of four athletes and the only girl, she always wanted to do whatever her brothers did — and wanted to do it better. Pickup hoops games with the Forbes were rarely just for fun, and the siblings will still mix it up with one another for family bragging rights. Wolking watched in horror as his star player defended big brother Mason in the Folsom gym recently and took an elbow to the mouth. She shook off the blow and continued to practice and train while Mason offered up the explanation that his sister “got too close.”
“Her level of competitiveness is ridiculous,” Wolking said of his undisputed team leader. “Her will and desire to win is unmatched, and that fires her teammates up.”
While the Folsom girls have not had the same level of recent success as the boys, Wolking expects his Bulldogs to compete in a deep Sierra Foothill League that features heavyweight Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills. Forbes and her many talents certainly help the coach’s confidence.
“She is passionate about basketball and has a self-motivation that you can’t teach,” Wolking said. “She gets it, and is like a coach on the floor who can teach and communicate with her teammates. That’s a luxury to have.”
McKenzie played for the Arizona Elite AAU team and logged lots of frequent flier miles while spending weekends training in Arizona or traveling to tournaments around the country. She also made unofficial visits to Kentucky, Louisville, and Tennessee with her mother to help pare down her college choices to a manageable group of around 10 schools.
With all of the practices, training sessions, family workouts and schoolwork—Max, Mason, and McKenize boast GPAs from 3.7 to 4.0 — the family may be stretched to be together all of the time. However, a new tweak to the SFL schedule will help the Forbes this season. Friday night league contests will feature girls and boys varsity doubleheaders on the same court for the first time.
The perfect opportunity for the Forbes family to keep playing together.