‘If you embrace black athletes then you must look beyond race…’

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AFTER five years living in the United States and residing in basketball communities in Ohio and Chicago, Jordan Blount fully supports the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement currently rocking the country.

“It’s about time,” he states plainly. “I know you can see the negativity portrayed in terms of looting but these protests are the natural response when a race has been oppressed for so long. You can’t just expect them to keep quiet.

“You go back to the original Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King, they didn’t have social media to spread their message. At the time it probably felt like change had come but really that racism is still happening every single day.”

The 23-year-old basketballer departed these shores at 15, which opened his eyes to other cultures and ethnicities. 

“My roommate in Spain was black; at UIC I was living with four black players from my team. I’m in my own bubble as a white Irish guy but basketball was a common ground straight away. After that nothing else really matters.”

The brutal death of George Floyd ignited a rebellion against police brutality, which was brewing even before Donald Trump’s election as president empowered and legitimised right-wing extremists but also reinforced casual racism.

For Blount, that was the striking element of his time across the Atlantic. While relatively sheltered as a college athlete, he could feel the uneasy undercurrent.

“You see situations where people act differently when you’re with your team-mates instead of when you’re on your own. My team-mates would say at times, ‘I can’t say that. You’re white, you can, it’s different’.” 

He’s been in touch with his former comrades in recent weeks.

“It’s mind-boggling really how so much of the country embraces black sport, black music, black culture, adopt it basically, yet hate the race. They separate the two. Their opinion of a black person is so different from how they view them as a basketballer or a footballer or a movie star.”

Ironically, racial tensions have exploded at a time when sports fanatics were glued to the Micheal Jordan documentary ‘The Last Dance’ on Netflix. 

Blount, the third of six children, was named Jordan by his father Gary after the greatest of them all.

“I loved the show. I knew a lot of it, obviously but at the same time the behind the scenes, intricate stuff… I was enthralled. It wasn’t just Jordan, it was Scottie Pippen, the Pistons. So interesting.”

Despite the high-flying majesty of MJ, Kobe Bryant was the dominant force of the NBA during Blount’s childhood. A DVD handed to him by Denis Wallace of the Black Mamba’s 81-point haul in demolishing the Toronto Raptors was played on a loop.

“Kobe was definitely my guy.”

Blount, who played for Glanmire and Neptune, left Leeside as a raw teen to pursue his hoop dreams through England and Spain before heading Stateside until his four-year stint playing and studying in Chicago was cut short by the global pandemic.

While he can’t wait to get back on the hardwood again, wherever that might be as he moves into the professional arena, there have been upsides to returning to where it all began.

He’s been working out intensely but away from the team environment, his body was able to could recover from the grind of the elite college level and a cruciate knee injury. 

He reconnected with the three youngest of the six Blount siblings, Mollie, Colm and Garreth, who were in primary school when he packed his bags and backed himself to get to the summit of the college game in the States.

Blount had been in touch with NBA agents before suffering a cruciate blow last summer which cost him the first half of his final season at UIC. He returned ahead of schedule from that injury and clocked up some impressive stats from Christmas to the Covid-19 shutdown. 

His fluency in Spanish could open doors over there but you can be sure he has full faith in his ability keep progressing in the sport.

“The NBA isn’t the be-all and end-all. Basketball is in every corner of the globe. The Euro League is a serious league with a huge following outside of Ireland and England. I’ll work my way up the ladder. I have a long way to go on my journey.”