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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Q&A with John Amaechi
John Amaechi in action for the Orlando Magic

Britain's best ever basketball player and Utah Jazz star John Amaechi gave his answers to the pick of your e-mails.

Amaechi was the first ever Briton to start a game in the NBA. His big breakthrough came in the 1999-2000 season when he made the roster with Orlando Magic.

He finished sixth in the voting for the NBA's Most Improved Player award - and he hasn't looked back since.

Amaechi even earned himself a place in the Hall of Fame for scoring the first NBA points of the new Millennium.

In 2001 he moved to Utah Jazz, where he has played alongside greats like Karl 'the Mailman' Malone and John Stockton.

Thanks for sending in your questions - either click below to listen to John's answers or read the transcription further down.

Interviewed by BBC Sport's James Doe.



Laurent Okafor, Nigeria

Your name seems to be Nigerian, is it?

That's correct. It comes from my father who was Nigerian.


Martin Duckworth, England

When you were at school did you get much encouragement from the staff regarding basketball?

I got absolutely no encouragement from the staff when I first started. Back in school I was told it was a poor person's sport.


Duncan Darroch-Thompson, Uppingham

What age did you start taking basketball seriously and was it because you realised you had a special talent or because you enjoyed it?

Originally I played simply because I really enjoyed it. One day, my coach Joe Forber brought me back from practice and asked me when I was going to 'take this seriously'. That was the first point that I realised someone else had faith in my abilities and that really got me going.


Phil James, Stockport

How did you find the determination to get yourself into the NBA?

I've had good coaches and have been receptive to what they've had to say to me. There's always an element of luck involved. Being receptive to coaches and being open to learning new things allows you a lot of opportunities.


Phil Lloyd-Bushell, England

Who were your heroes when you were growing up?

My mother, I thought she made the world go round. She was the real engine behind my success.


Joe Lachowski, Phoenix, Arizona

I am a fellow Penn State alumnus. What do you miss the most about Happy Valley?

College was the best time of my life. I got the chance to be involved in so many different things. I really enjoyed being in the same environment as people who were trying to expand their understanding of the world.


Baz, West Midlands

What's the most difficult challenge you've faced in life?

Good question. It's probably been trying to develop a healthy disrespect for what other people think is impossible. I think it's one of the keys to being successful.


Russell Spink, Bournemouth

What do you think of the lack of public courts in the UK at the moment?

I think it's criminal. The amount of money that's been wasted on outdoor courts that get rained on or used by football players is a drastic mistake. The money should've gone on indoor facilities that were available to all people.

That's the way that young people will get the opportunity to get better at basketball.


Nick Willis, Reading

What do you think it would take to develop the nation's top league into a real crowd pulling national sport?

The reason the BBL is not successful is because people don't think it's a British sport. If you go to France it's seen as a French sport, if you go to Greece it's seen as a Greek sport. British people won't embrace the sport if it's not British, there are too many imports.

Young British players are not getting the opportunity to play. When they do, things should improve.


Kal, USA

What do you think is needed for the UK to get some more players into the NBA?

It's not really a question of the talent level in England, which is exceptional. What is required is infrastructure. The rungs on the ladder to the NBA need to be closer so that players can actually reach them.

At the moment the gaps are too big and kids are going to fall through.


Daniel Noble, West Yorkshire

How long did it take you to fit in in the NBA and how do you find your lifestyle has changed as a result?

I don't think I've ever really fitted in to the NBA. I'm always going to be seen as the quirky British kid, the one who talks funny and so on. But I don't really want to fit in. If the NBA stands for lots of cars and lots of houses, I'm more interested in being the normal everyday average Joe.


Jason Appleton, England

Who is the best player you have played against in the NBA?

This year Tim Duncan. He is without doubt the best player in the league. But all the world's top players are there, so I face people who are regarded as heroes and superstars around the world on a daily basis.


Ian Coleman, Newcastle

What is your favourite arena to play in?

Probably that of the Miami Heat. It's very odd and has a weird fire thing going throughout the arena. It's very empty nowadays so it's not as fun as it used to be.


Dave, Northern Ireland

With games on consecutive days or very close together, how do you get time to train and improve strategies?

That's one of the biggest differences between the NBA and other leagues, we play so many games. I've played around 110 games this year, sometimes four times a week so you have to be mentally agile as time is very limited when it comes to practicing new routines.


Heather, Manchester

What does it feel like having your name in the NBA Hall of Fame?

This issue is only huge because I'm the only active player in it and I'm the only British player in it. But mostly to me, it's proof that I did it and that people will be able to check back when I'm 70 to prove that I was there.


Charlie Reid, Madrid

If you owned your own sports shoe company, which NBA star would you most want to represent you?

Good question. Probably someone along the lines of Tim Duncan or Tony Parker. A player with charisma but someone who takes their responsibilities as a role model and athlete very seriously.


Jay, Michigan

Will Karl Malone be back with the Jazz next year?

Jay in Michigan - no. Karl will be with the Lakers next year. If not there then Dallas or San Antonio. But I think it will be the Lakers.


Tom, New Jersey, USA

How will your team play to compensate for John Stockton leaving?

Good question. Every team goes through these ups and downs. It hasn't happened to Utah for a long time but they're going to have to rebuild in order to replace him.


David Pfleger, Brit in the USA

What has it been like playing alongside Stockton and Malone?

It's been a pleasure. To learn from any players is valuable but from them, with their great skills and experience, this is especially so.


Miles Clement, Spalding, Lincolnshire

I was just wondering whether you think any of the big free agents (such as Duncan, O'Neal and Kidd) will leave their current clubs in the summer, and if so, who do you think they will go to?

I doubt Duncan will move if they win the championship. O'Neal I would say no. Lots of teams would want Jason Kidd but under the salary rules, such a trade would be hard.


Jeremy, Brighton, UK

Who do you think is the greatest centre of the modern era?

Certainly the most physically dominant is Shaquille O'Neal but he's not the most technically skilled. If you count Tim Duncan, who does play centre sometimes, he would be your ideal. He's got the whole package in terms of skills, rebounds, running and shooting but he can also be relied on to do the dirty work inside.


Alex Finch, Sheffield

With the current domination of the NBA by Western Conference teams, do you think it's time to review the league structure so that the best teams play in the finals?

I don't think it will ever happen, mainly for marketing reasons. I think the shift to the west coast is something that will eventually balance itself out when players start looking for different things and their hunger to win increases.

To do this and express their talents, they will have to move on and this could take them east.


Chris, Newcastle

Do you have any plans to come home and play or coach in British basketball when you finish in the NBA?

I don't doubt that when I'm finished I'll come home and end up playing for my club in Manchester. As the boss you don't have to do the sprints! But seriously, I do plan to come back and try and give back what knowledge I have gained.





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