Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Major League Sports and UK athletes

I have stated before on here that there is much disparity between the sporting cutures in the UK and here in the USA. It is very rare that a sportsman successfully makes the transition and plays major league after competing in the UK. I believe that the College Athletics system in the USA is the main reason. However, there are many athletics students who gain NCAA status from the UK in a variety of sports but few who go on and compete professionally in the NBA, NFL or NHL. One athlete who did manage to bridge 'both sides of the pond' is the former NBA player, John Ameachi. Ameachi was born in Boston, Massachussets, but moved with his family to the UK when he was 4 years old. He was brought up in Stockport, near Manchester and when he was 17 obtained a place at Penn State and subsequently at Vanderbilt. He was named in the All Americans and signed, undrafted, for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He then returned to Europe and played succcesfully in Italy, France, Greece and the UK where he played in the British basketball league for my home town club, The Sheffield Sharks. Due to his success and development he was signed by The Orlando Magic and competed in the NBA as a first pick for several years. he famously scored the first points of the 2000 campaign. Ameachi had the opportunity to sign a $17m deal to play with the LA Lakers, but chose to stay loyal to Orlando, who had shown faith in him and given him his opportunity, despite being on a much lesser financial contract. He averaged 10.6 points across his time with the Magic. This last point brings me on to my main point, which is that while he was with the Sheffield Sharks he averaged 21.8 points and actually scored 40 points in the British Final one year. The standard of the 2 leagues are 'poles' apart, unyet Ameachi not only managed to get a contract with the Magic he was an integral part of their starting five. The story of John Ameachi is one that gives hope to those athletes in the UK aspiring to play in the USA that it is possible with the dedication, hard work, positive attitude to bridge the pond and compete in a major league sport.

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