CALL HIM MR “MAYOR”
A 33-year-old American who has extended his contract for three seasons with a French club, in a city where he is nicknamed “the Mayor”? This is the story of Marcus Ginyard in Limoges.
Written by Yann Casseville
Émile-Roger Lombertie and Marcus Ginyard, at first glance, don’t have much in common. The first, a native of Champsac in Haute-Vienne, is 69 years old, and a retired psychiatrist. The second, from New York, is a 33 year old professional basketball player. What they have in common: both are called “The Mayor”. Lombertie, officially since his election in 2014. And Ginyard … since Limoges decided to rename him that way.
“I’m not 100% sure where it came from. Either Nico (Lang) or Hugo (Invernizzi). It started in the locker room, then it spread very quickly. This summer was cool, I had the chance to meet the mayor, the real one. He came up to me and said, “So you want to see the real mayor?’’ One of my friends took pictures of us, the two mayors. Everyone is joking about that nickname now, but at the same time it gives you a good idea of what I am experiencing here, how good I feel in the city, and that people can sense it too.”
His teammates joke with him, seeing him walking around the city like a candidate on an election campaign, talking with the citizens. Ginyard even writes some of his social media posts in French, celebrating his first Bastille Day (July 14) as he stayed in France during the offseason, and even a call for help for local businesses: “I’m glad to see the stores open again. Support your local stores!” he posted on Instagram after the spring lockdown.
FROM CHAPEL HILL TO BEAUBLANC
With a father who served in the Marines for more than twenty years and his mother who briefly served in the Air Force, Marcus Ginyard sums up his education in one word: “Discipline. For example, even today, I make my bed in a hotel. I can’t imagine leaving my room without making the bed. It illustrates the discipline that reigned at the house. There were things that had to be done on a daily basis. No excuse, no exception.”
This education made it easier for him to adapt to the Tar Heels at the University of North Carolina, a mythical institution governed for years by the late Dean Smith, where he surely developed his work ethic. Marcus, who convinced Limoges CSP to extend his contract for three seasons, “They say that for every hour a helicopter flies, it takes five hours of maintenance. It’s the same for me!” he laughs. “We have a great medical staff here. I spend more time with them than anyone.”
Between the mythical fervor on the Chapel Hill campus and the passion of Beaublanc fans, Ginyard refuses to compare the two. “We cannot compare. If we talk about numbers, there are 5,000 people in Beaublanc and 23,000 at the Dean Smith Center.” More than the atmosphere, in Limoges, Ginyard discovered what usually does not exist in the professional world: the continuity of a team. “We have eight players returning from last season. I have not known that since college.”
BEFORE LIMOGES, A GLOBETROTTER
In the NCAA in 2009, sitting on the bench for a season with a stress fracture in his foot, he watched his teammates lift the trophy. Among them, future NBA players: Ty Lawson, Danny Green … “We can spend our lives talking about what could have happened with ‘ifs’. Was going to the NBA possible? Yes, maybe. Who knows? But I am happy with my career.”
Having turned pro in 2010, Ginyard became a globetrotter: before landing in Limoges in 2019, he played for twelve teams in nine different countries! Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Macedonia … and France, where Marcus already played in 2015-16 for Nantes in Pro B. Being an international basketball player is “a wonderful life”, which has its share of sacrifices. The first: distance from loved ones. “The first year, you go away for ten months, you come back two months, and when you come back, everyone is working.”
But after two years, you are gone twenty months. After three years, thirty months. People move, build families, and you move further and further away. I have sacrificed my family many times. The next time I see my nephew, he will be as tall as me.”
To “counter this lack”, the guard was looking for stability and he found it in Limoges. Initially, he was hired in the summer of 2019 as William Howard’s back up, but in the end Howard made the leap to the NBA. Ginyard was able to take on more responsibility (9.8 points in 26 minutes), bringing a bond to the team; this summer, coach Mehdy Mary made him his co-captain, along with Nicolas Lang.
“Signing three years, in itself, says more about my relationship with the club and the city than anything I could tell you. I work on my French with apps on my phone, books, and I’m always talking to people in the city as well. Even with the team, I often speak French. And for the league’s media day, I did the all my interviews in French! I am not at an exceptionally high level, but I am working to improve. ” This is not part of my campaign platform.