For a member of the Capital City Go-Go, a call from the Washington Wizards wasn’t just about basketball. The impact was felt far beyond DC 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 was playing for development league team Wizards when multiple cases of COVID-19 hit the franchise in December, and he was lucky enough to make his NBA debut.
“Normally I don’t check my phone before I leave, just to be more efficient. And then I did this and found 20 missed calls and I was like, ‘What’s going on? ‘ “said Echenique.
He remembers 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 was like, ‘Okay, this is it,’” Echenique said through 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, D.C.
“We Colombians are extremely proud. He is the first Colombian to play in the NBA. He comes from a very difficult background and he was able to move forward,” said Pinzón Buen.
“When I met the ambassador, I was like, oh, this is bigger than me. [I appreciated] the time it took to put me on his agenda to recognize me,” Echenique said.
Although basketball gave him the opportunity to play the sport in different countries around the world, Echenique said he never forgets the sacrifices his parents made in his native country.
“My father is a bus driver. [My parents] means the world to me, I do it for them because I know how much they have sacrificed for me,” he said.
Jaime Echenique Sr. couldn’t be there for his son’s big moment. But a video message moved the player to tears.
“I give thanks to God because you are where you are. I have a son that I am so proud of,” his father said.
Ten years ago, Echenique also wanted to be a bus driver, helping his father at work.
“I was the person who took the money and gave them change,” he said.
Now he waits to help wizards again, ready for his next chance.
“The only thing I know is that I still have training tomorrow and that’s the only thing I’m focusing on. I don’t focus on the future, I just focus on the day to day and my short term goal,” Echenique said.