At first sight John Amaechi looks like a typical National Basketball Association player. As an athlete standing 6ft 10in tall and weighing 270lb, he possesses the basic tools needed to be an effective competitor in the world's toughest league.
However, looks can be deceiving. A BSc in Psychology from Pennsylvania State University certainly makes the Cleveland Cavaliers player unusual (he is also pursuing a Masters in the same discipline) and there is one other important difference. Only one other athlete from England has ever played in the NBA, which makes him rarer than a British champion at Wimbledon.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Amaechi grew up in Stockport from the age of five. Now 25 years old, he clearly perceives himself as British. "What you are is not based on where you were born," he explains. "Your personality is developed within the environment that you grow up in."
He played rugby, and did not play basketball seriously until after his 16th birthday. Not surprisingly the prospect of a professional basketball career seemed improbable. "It wasn't so much that I knew I had a talent for basketball," he says. "I knew I was big and that height was an important commodity."
After completing his A levels in Britain he went to St John's High School in Toledo, Ohio. One year later, he spent 12 unsuccessful months at Vanderbilt University in Nashville before trmes and gained a reputation as a powerful performer. As a free agent this season, he signed a two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and achieved the distinction of making the team's starting line-up as an NBA rookie. His performances have been such that only injury prevented him from gaining selection to last Saturday's televised "rookie" game.
In addition to fulfilling a sporting dream, his present position in the NBA, and particularly the fame it affords him, has enabled him to pursue his other passion of working with …