Ex-NBA center recalls touching interaction with 12-year old fan

john-amaechi-cleveland-reboundFormer NBA center John Amaechi has recalled his “all-time best memory” in the NBA – answering a question asked by the members of the Quora community.

Amaechi recalled a moment which happened early in his career – a rather touching interaction with a 12-year old fan.

“I’m going to try to keep this brief.  There were days that I played well, that my team played well and it was as if all was well in the world.  Times in the locker room when someone said something and had the whole room rolling on the floor,” Amaechi wrote. “Amazingly warm times listening to veterans tell stories of their time in the league and then becoming the veteran and telling those stories myself. ”

“My best memory from my time in the NBA was very early in my career (and in the season) at Cleveland (1994, I think) sitting a Panera Bread in the city centre mall and being stopped before I left by a mother who was dragging her embarrassed-but-hopeful 12 year old son behind her asking if he could have an autograph,” he continued.

“I think I signed a napkin, then I stuck out my hand and offered to shake his. He tentatively reached out and we shook,” Amaechi recalled. “I smiled at his mother who mouthed ‘Thank you!’ as I started to move away.”

“I was going to wave goodbye to the kid after getting a few steps away, but turned to see that he was still there, frozen in the same spot, starring at his hand. This stopped me in my tracks,” he wrote.

amaechi-young“Prior to that moment, even though I had spent my time at Penn State aware of my responsibility of being a role model, I had not been fully tuned into the impact athletes could have with seemingly inconsequential interactions with strangers,” Amaechi said.

“I remember thinking, even though I was starting for a (bad) Cleveland team at the time “…an average player like me can have this impact?!”  That moment was like the start of an addiction, I just wanted to experience it again and again,” Amaechi recalled.

“Until that point, I had thought my great skill was being better than 99-point-something percent of the population at putting a ball in a hoop; from that moment on, I realised I was mistaken, and my stunning decline through that season in Cleveland made me realise I needed to take advantage of this new power while I had it!”

In the end, Amaechi put smiles on everyone’s faces.

“Well, there you go, it was either that memory or the game I dunked on Shaq.  Then I remembered that didn’t happen. But this one is pretty good…”

Amaechi spent 5 years in the NBA, playing for Cleveland, Orlando and Utah. During his best season, with Orlando Magic (99-00), Amaechi averaged 10.5 ppg and 3.3 rpg per game, playing 80 games (53 started), in 21.1 minutes per match.

Amaechi played a total of 294 NBA games (93 started), averaging 6.2 ppg and 2.6 rpg in 16.4 minutes per game. After retiring from the sport, Amaechi became the first ex NBA star to come out publicly as gay.


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