Friday, February 09, 2007

John Amaechi: The gay British Barack Obama?

Ian Whittell:

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, but raised in Stockport, Amaechi will be the first prominent British sportsman to come out since Justin Fashanu, the footballer who later committed suicide, in 1990.

Amaechi, the son of an absent Nigerian father, was raised by his mother, a doctor, and attended Stockport Grammar School, where he excelled as a rugby player before his basketball talent took him to high school in the US.

The centre played at two colleges, the start of a trend of frequently changing clubs, and signed for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA after graduation in 1995. After only 28 games he moved to Europe and played for Cholet and Limoges in France, Bologna in Italy, Panathinaikos in Greece and Sheffield Sharks in the British Basketball League in the next three years.

Amaechi returned to the NBA with the Orlando Magic in 1999-2000 and had his best season, earning him a $10 million, four-year contract. But after one more season in Orlando, Amaechi was traded to the Jazz for two more seasons before a spectacular fall from grace resulted in him not being used at the start of the 2003-04 campaign.

There followed trades to the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks, but neither club played Amaechi and the latter paid up his contract and released him.

After retiring, Amaechi became well-known in Britain for his television appearances and his work with children. He has helped to fund the Amaechi Basketball Centre in Whalley Range, Manchester, and came out of retirement in 2006 to help England to win the bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, although he was a shadow of his former self.

Retired NBA journeyman comes out of the closet ...

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