For a member of the Capital City Go-Go, a call from the Washington Wizards was about more than just basketball. The impact could be felt far beyond DC all the way to the country of Colombia.
Jaime Echenique will forever remember December 30, 2021 as the day he became the first Colombian to play in the NBA.
He played for Wizard’s Development League team when several cases of COVID-19 hit the franchise in December, and he got the chance to make his NBA debut.
“I usually do not check my phone before I go, just to be more efficient. And then I did, and I found 20 missed calls and I thought, ‘What’s going on?'” Said Echenique.
He recalled seeing calls from Capital City Go-Go general manager Amber Nichols, head coach Mike Williams and some of his teammates.
“And then I saw [calls from President Tommy Sheppard], and I thought, ‘Okay, that’s it,’ Echenique said with a smile.
The Wichita State University product had become a celebrity in Colombia and was even recognized by Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón Buen in Washington, DC
“We Colombians are extremely proud. This is the first Colombian ever to have played in the NBA. He comes from a very tough background and he has been able to move on,” said Pinzón Buen.
“When I met the ambassador, I thought, oh, this is bigger than myself. [I appreciated] the time it took him to put me on his agenda to recognize me, ”said Echenique.
Although basketball has given him the opportunity to play the sport in different countries around the world, Echenique said he will never forget the sacrifices his parents made in his home country.
“My father is a bus driver. [My parents] means the whole world to me, I do this for them because I know how much they sacrificed for me, ”he said.
Jaime Echenique Sr. could not be there for his son’s big moment. But a video message moved the player to tears.
“I thank God because you are where you are. I have a son that I am so proud of,” his father said.
A decade ago, Echenique also wanted to be a bus driver and help her father at work.
“I was the person who would take the money and give them the money back,” he said.
Now he is waiting to help the wizards again, ready for his next chance.
“The only thing I know is that I have training again tomorrow, and that’s the only thing I focus on. I do not focus on the future, I just focus on day by day and my short-term goal, ”said Echenique.