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John Ameachi, Basketball player
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW WITH JOHN AMAECHI, BASKETBALL PLAYER, MAY 6TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: And now sport and the question for you to answer is this, which of these five men is the highest paid British sportsman: David Beckham, Lennox Lewis, Prince Naseem, Tim Henman or John Amaechi. And you win if you picked John Amaechi from Stockport. One of the giants of the National Basketball League in America, his salary estimated at 160,000 a week, is more than David Beckham and Roy Keene combined, something they'll no doubt be mentioning to Sir Alex Ferguson a little later on today and he's here with us now, John Amaechi. John, welcome.

JOHN AMAECHI: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: It's an amazing story, the story begins with, at Stockport Grammar School?

JOHN AMAECHI: Yes indeed, I started off at Stockport Grammar School as a rugby player.

DAVID FROST: Right

JOHN AMAECHI: And not a very good one but I moved from there to start playing basketball at the age of 17 which is, which is late for basketball but was lucky to get good coaches and good guidance that led me to America, to High School, to College and then eventually to the pros.

DAVID FROST: And you planned that, you planned that campaign with your late mother, yes?

JOHN AMAECHI: Absolutely when I announced to my mother one day that I was going to wander off to America and become an NBA basketball star, rather than look at me as if it was ridiculous, which is probably what I would have done as a parent, she made me make a plan and not just a simple three-step but to take into account every possible option, if this didn't work what would be your fall-back plan, what would be your plan B and that's the kind of thing I think that's guided me through.

DAVID FROST: Really, that, that's where, where the plan, she thought your plan was too short?

JOHN AMAECHI: My initial plan was a three-stage job, basically saying let's go to America, somebody will think I'm brilliant and then give me lots of money and she wasn't very satisfied with that, she wanted to see something with, with depth, that really saw, foresaw some of the obstacles that there would be. You know I was a British player going to America, you know there was a lot of doubt on the part of coaches in America that anybody other than Americans can actually play the game.

DAVID FROST: Right.

JOHN AMAECHI: So there's automatically some kind of difficulty you have to come to.

DAVID FROST: And you did one thing that not all leading sportsmen do at college, I mean you really did work on the work as well and you're now doing a doctorate?

JOHN AMAECHI: Yes I'm studying for my doctorate in child psychology, I think it's a, I often get bemused by athletes that I see not worrying about what they'll do after they finish playing, I think there's nothing more sad than, than being one of these people at 50 years or 40 years after you finish playing, you're still talking about that game back in 1970 or 1950 where you had however many points. You need to move on, you need to have something really viable to do afterwards.

DAVID FROST: And what, with these huge sums of money, which as you've said are only for a short period but nevertheless these figures are 160,000 a week and all things, fantastic figures, what is the, your favourite possession that you've been able to buy as a result of your earnings, I mean is it a Ferrari or is it something quite different?

JOHN AMAECHI: No I think, probably my favourite possession is, I have a, I have a hot tub in my garden that I like to go out to, into at night and it's where I do my deep thinking I think, it's very relaxing, it's, you know, not the most expensive thing you can buy but its, it's something that to me is very valuable as a relaxation tool.

DAVID FROST: And you've got involved also in politics, or political issues and so on, haven't you, you've come out very much about against gun control and people have responded with death threats among other things?

JOHN AMAECHI: Yes I think last year a story was done in USA Today, a national newspaper, and basically they asked me what I thought about guns and I said 12 children a day, that's the statistic, 12 children a day are shot in America so I cannot possibly be on the side of having guns, the, the constitutional amendment that they had to have guns was written in a time when they were more likely to be mauled by a bear when they walk outside their door then they were to encounter a burglar so I just think it's something that is very outdated and really hurts the society.

DAVID FROST: Well it's, it mystifies us all the way it goes on and even when President Reagan was shot he still was in favour of gun control after being shot. I mean it must be something, as you say, deep in the constitution, deep in the psyche of America?

JOHN AMAECHI: Oh it's entrenched, it certainly is, it's bizarre really because I, I relate to people in America the story of Dunblane and what happened there and the immediate reaction of people in Britain to that, saying no, guns, guns cannot possibly be a part of our culture when this type of thing can happen and the fact remains that in, in America they've had four or five incidents of the, of the magnitude of Dunblane in the last year, it's been out, you know it's been truly outrageous to see this happen and yet people still coming out and saying we need our guns for our hunting, for our past-times.

DAVID FROST: Yeah, and now, the reason for your trip over here, we're delighted you're here, is in fact one of your crusades for kids, isn't it, about reading, yes?

JOHN AMAECHI: Absolutely, I'm here as an ambassador for the Reading is Fundamental programme, I'm a big proponent of education anyway, I think one of the best things I've seen really is that people talk about, you think education is expensive, try ignorance. And I really believe that, we need to make sure that the children, American, British, regardless get the kind of help they need to get the education they need in this day when there's degree inflation and it's harder and harder to find jobs that people feel satisfied with, with less qualifications.

DAVID FROST: And so that's a crusade that's catching on here and is much bigger in America, yeah?

JOHN AMAECHI: Yeah they have a Reading is Fundamental programme there in America too, but to be honest here in England they've really come up with some innovative ideas in terms of distributing books and, and getting kids interested in reading to each other and to other people that are actually being adopted over in America now. So it's working both ways.

DAVID FROST: Well it's a joy to have you here and you're very refreshing to meet and we wish you continued success, you can't play basketball forever obviously but you were mentioning your future, how long, much longer can you play?

JOHN AMAECHI: I would imagine another five years and then I will be passed up by a younger, faster, higher jumping athlete.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much John.

JOHN AMAECHI: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: John Amaechi there.

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