John Uzoma Ekwugha Amaechi, (born 26 November 1970) is an English retired basketball player who currently works as an educator and broadcaster in Europe and the United States.
The son of a Nigerian, Amaechi was born in Boston in the US. He was raised by his English mother in Heaton Moor, Stockport, England, with his two younger sisters, attending the Tithe Barn Primary School before moving on to Stockport Grammar School. He first played basketball at the age of 17, coached by Joe Forber, whom he described as a father figure.
John moved to the United States to play high school basketball at St. John's Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio. He began playing college basketball at Vanderbilt but transferred to Penn State, where he was a two-time First Team Academic All-American selection. While at Penn State, Amaechi became a motivational public speaker and a mentor to area youth.
He became the first undrafted player to start in his first NBA game at the Cavaliers' starting center. Amaechi played 28 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1995–1996 season, then played for two years in Europe (France: Cholet, Limoges; Italy: Kinder Bologna; Greece: Panathinaikos; UK: Sheffield Sharks). In the season 1996–1997 he played for Panathinaikos. In September 1996, he won the FIBA Intercontinental Cup, being the first scorer (alongside Fragiskos Alvertis) of Panathinaikos with 59 points in the 3 games of the tournament (18,23,18 pts). In 1997–1998 he played with Kinder Bologna but left mid-season before the Italians won the Euroleague.
John Amaechi returned to the USA, signing with the Orlando Magic in 1999. With a solid 1999–2000 season, where he averaged 10.5 points in 21.1 minutes per game, he gained fame for scoring the NBA's first points in the year 2000. He may have been best knownfor turning down a $17 million contract offer from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000, opting to remain in Orlando for $600,000 per year.Amaechi went on to play for the Utah Jazz from 2001 to 2003.
He was traded to the Houston Rockets before the 2003-04 NBA season in exchange for Glen Rice, and, though he was an active player, he did not participate in any games for them. The Rockets later traded him to the New York Knicks, who bought him out of his contract.
Amaechi came out of retirement to represent England during the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, helping the England national basketball team win the bronze medal. In all he made 18 caps for England.
He now has a portfolio career as a broadcaster, consultant and academic, working on coverage of a weekly NBA basketball game on UK television channel Five and providing co-commentary for the BBC at the 2008 Olympic Games in addition, Amaechi was a judge on the BBC Series The Speaker in 2009. Amaechi is also a regular guest host of the BBC Radio Manchester Business show with Steven Saul Amaechi owns Amaechi Performance Systems, which is a consultancy working with numerous bluechip brands to improve leadership and communication skills and organisational diversity.
He is a member of the American Psychological Association, the British Psychological Society (BPS), the BPS Division of Organisational Psychology and the BPS Psychological Testing Centre. Amaechi also became a Senior Fellow at the centre for Emotional Literacy and Personal Development at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in the United Kingdom.
Amaechi is also involved with the ABC Foundation in Manchester, which encourages children to become involved in sports and their communities by building youth sports centres throughout the United Kingdom. The first such facility, the Amaechi Basketball Centre, was built in Manchester, not far from Amaechi's childhood home of Stockport.The venue is also home to the English Basketball League's Manchester Magic (men) and Manchester Mystics (women), both of which are owned by Amaechi.
In a radio interview, Amaechi said that he was returning to school to get a PhD in psychology. "I want to do something more meaningful in my life," he said. Amaechi also explained why he played for Orlando in 2000 for much less than the $17 million offered to him by the Lakers; his answer was that Orlando had hired him in 1999 when no other team would. "There are many people who are asked what their word is worth, and when people ask me that I can say, 'At least $17 million.'
Amaechi served as a commentator with Mike Carlson during the 2012 Olympic basketball tournament.
He occasionally appears on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on ESPN Radio as a guest and guest co-host.