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|July 23rd, 2007, 02:35 PM||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2006
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The Official "John Amaechi Is A God" Thread
He is finally getting some recognition - but perhaps not for the right reasons.
Never the less - let us all pray at the altar of John Amaechi.
Give this man a knighthood (at least)!
After making headlines - and enemies - across the US by becoming the first National Basketball Association player to come out, John Amaechi is trying to lose the tag of "that gay British basketball player". A project to give thousands of youngsters in the UK a better start in life may provide a different kind of legacy.
While David Beckham tries to make waves in the US, another British sportsman is recovering from the level of publicity Posh could only dream of.
One night in early February, John Amaechi went to bed a retired basketball player - arguably the UK's best ever - about to release his autobiography, Man in the Middle.
All of a sudden I woke up one morning and I'm a 'big, black, British, gay guy'
He woke up emblazoned across the front pages of USA Today and the New York Times. The news that his book would reveal he was gay had been leaked out by bloggers.
"It was a very strange experience," he says. "I consider myself a pretty rounded guy. I've done pretty elite things in business, sport and academics and all of a sudden I woke up one morning and I'm a 'big, black, British, gay guy'. That was frustrating at times."
His admission rocked US sport and prompted spiteful remarks from former team mates and death threats from the public, although the response on the whole he says has been "95% positive".
Nearly six months on, the "craziness" has died down and he can concentrate on making the news for other reasons.
The Amaechi Basketball Centres Foundation (ABC) is about to open its second youth centre in the UK, an £8m development in Bradford. When the programme is complete it will have six centres nationwide that give youngsters opportunities in sport and education.
Amaechi scored the first NBA points of the new millennium
The Manchester centre opened seven years ago and has 5,000 young people aged five to 25 going through its doors every week.
Amaechi, 36, who grew up in Stockport, believes these buildings are more about community-building than sport.
"A tiny part of it is basketball-related. While I definitely want to see the next amazing basketball player to come out of Britain and go off to the US and play in the Olympics, and the centres are a way to make that happen, it's only 2% of the whole.
"The most part of my interest is that young people get to interact with peers. Not without conflict and not without stress, because they are part of life, but within a set of rules and organised in such a way they can learn to interact with each other under these conditions."
The foundation's slogan is "legacy starts now" and Amaechi is clearly a man who thinks about how he will be remembered.
"I think when you show young people that you care and when you build infrastructure and community and when you allow people to experience things and grow in ways they hadn't thought possible, that's how your legacy is built.
"My sexual orientation and the fact I played basketball will be increasingly unimportant in the face of that."
Amaechi's rise to fame began when as a gangly 17-year-old he was spotted on the streets of Manchester by a scout. Having never picked up a basketball before, his mother - a single parent - devised what he called The Plan, to guide him to the top of the profession.
After a year of playing, he moved to a high school in Ohio and a basketball scholarship at Penn State University followed. Despite knockbacks along the way, he spent four years at the NBA, becoming the UK's most successful player in the process. While at the top, he wrote a column for the BBC Sport website before retiring in 2003 to begin work on his book.
Throughout his career in the US he avoided being untruthful about his private life by skilfully deflecting probing questions, but he believes had he come out while playing he would have lost his job.
"People often think of the locker room as a bastion of homophobia but homophobia is rife in schools and workplaces and pubs. And when the PE teacher says 'Don't throw it like a girl' or 'Don't be a poof', these things help propagate that atmosphere.
"Sports locker rooms are strident examples because no gay people are apparently in them but really they're just another hostile workplace."
The bad reaction from some players confirmed to him he was right to wait until he retired before making the announcement. And the death threats were not the first he'd ever received - when he spoke out about Iraq and about gun laws he was similarly vilified.
A SPORTING LIFE
1970: Born Boston to Nigerian father and English mother
1974: Moves with mother and two sisters to Stockport
1987: Begins playing after spotted by scout
1988: High school in Ohio
1995: Penn State University
1996-99: Plays in Europe
1999 - 2003: Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets
But this time he was at the centre of a maelstrom. Some people in the US were previously unaware that black people could be gay, he says.
"Without wanting to sound pompous, I think I have started a debate on issues of diversity and equality that would never have come up otherwise."
He received letters and e-mails from different kinds of people - US soldiers quitting the military so they could come out, gay and straight parents of gay and straight children. Some people would burst into tears and give him a bear hug in the street.
"The good thing was it didn't affect just one part of society. I don't want to be a role model only for tall, brown, gay kids and I was pleased that didn't change - the same variety of people still responded to me. It's been very rewarding for me."
Reaction from the UK was more muted, partly because he is less well known there, partly because he was already "out" to people who knew him there and also because, he believes, the country is more in tune with equality issues than the US.
He has yet to meet his boyhood hero, Daley Thompson, who is helping London prepare for 2012.
But given Amaechi's experience and the way the Games wants to engage young people, it is surprising that the organisers haven't asked him to help.
"If they're interested in legacy and providing a legacy for young people through their indoor sports then I'm the man."
Visit The Trafford Spade Museum - Bring The Kids. Ample Parking and Excellent Gift Shop Right Next Door
|July 23rd, 2007, 03:48 PM||#2|
Join Date: Aug 2005
Likes (Received): 106
I'm sure he was sat behind me in the pics about 20 years ago. This guy had his knees around my ears and I was really pissed off cos I thought he was being an idiot...
So I got up. He got up. I sat down.
|July 23rd, 2007, 08:13 PM||#3|
Far East London
Join Date: Jun 2004
Likes (Received): 95
its good to see someone breaking the mould and trying to put something back into the comunity
|July 23rd, 2007, 10:55 PM||#4|
In the Re-education Gulag
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Gtr. Manchester
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Indeed, well done to Mr. Amaechi!
You would have thought the Olympic bigwigs would have loved to have had him on board, but they're obviously spending too much time stressing over the logo to think about anything else!
|July 27th, 2007, 06:17 PM||#5|
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Sheffs Special
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I saw Amaechi play quite a lot when he was playing for Sheffield Sharks.
Agree with all the above sentiments that a man as rounded and contributing to the wider community (particularly in the north of england for a change) should be included in the olympic set up.
He should replace that conservative traitor to the north seb coe, imo!!
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