At PPI, we are always interested in learning more about basketball culture in other countries. Last week, we were able to talk to Byron Richards, who played for the Essex Leopards of the National Basketball League in England during the 2014-2015 season.
PPI: What was your experience like as an American living in a foreign country?
BR: It was certainly an adjustment. There are a lot of things as far as culture shock that comes along with living in a foreign country that’s difficult for any American. I think that I really adjusted around my second season and grew into a real rhythm as far as living over there.
PPI: Where do you think basketball in England is headed?
BR: I feel like it’s headed in a positive direction. Basketball is not only a great sport, but it’s an avenue for children of all ages to really funnel a lot of their creativity and their personality. Where I am from, kids living in rough neighborhoods were really essentially saved by staying so involved in the sport, and I feel like many places in London this is certainly the case and can be the case elsewhere in the UK. I also coached kids in England, and seeing how quickly they respond and how excited the sport gets them was always refreshing.
PPI: You were able to visit PPI’s sites in Northern Ireland and Cyprus. From an outsider’s perspective, what did you think of each program? What did you like the most about each site?
BR: I find both programs just thrilling. As a cartoonist and comic book writer, I’m clearly a fan of superheroes. I often jokingly compared my two friends in both sites to superheroes in many ways, but the truth is the work being done by Peace Players is definitely comic book-worthy. Both of those Northern Ireland International Fellow Joe Smith and Cyprus International Fellow Jessica Walton could probably tell you I could speak for hours on how proud I am to know them. In Northern Ireland, I saw much more of the actual PPI-specific work as well as many of the scenic landmarks. Learning about the struggles in the country and its history first, and then getting to really see it for myself was surreal. It was rewarding for me, as an outsider, to see two kids from different sides of the city high five or pass to one another, so I could only imagine the feeling for my friends who helped bring about such unity.
PPI: What do you think of the concept of PPI (sports for peace)? Do you see sport for development organizations growing in the future?
BR: I think it’s an incredible idea and I’m really glad that something like this exists. Plenty of people speak about there being issues in the world. This sort of organization is actually doing something about them, and from my first-hand experience, not necessarily seeking any form of notoriety or applause for it. Simply put, it seems they do it for the betterment of others, and that’s just awesome. I can definitely see there being a ton of growth in this field.
PPI: What’s your favorite thing about the game of basketball?
BR: I think it’s the mix of singular creativity, with the embodiment of numerous creative individuals linking together. I’m a heavily creative person, and the possibilities basketball has presented me have always amazed me. Be it a new move, a new game, a new friend, a new team or even a new country – the creativity and the possibilities make basketball something I will always love.