Skip to content

John Amaechi

Former NBA Player, Psychologist

John Amaechi is a British psychologist and a former NBA basketball player. At the age of 17, when he first picked up a basketball, Amaechi was not considered athletic enough to have any chance of success in domestic sports, much less overseas. Six years later he became a starting center in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over his eight-year career in basketball, he also played for the Orlando Magic and the Utah Jazz.

Since retiring from sports, Amaechi pursued a Ph.D. in psychology, recently co-authoring a paper on the subject of self-esteem, goal setting, and personality. He is a fifteen year veteran of the American Psychological Association (APA) and a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), its division of occupational psychology, and the BPS Psychometric Testing Group.

In 2007, he released his bestselling memoir “Man in the Middle,” chronicling his life and work and revealing to the world that he was gay, making him the only openly gay man ever to have played in the NBA. 

Amaechi also has his own charity, the ABC Foundation, with a center in Manchester that sees 2,000 young people per week go through its doors. He has teamed with researchers at the Pennsylvania State University and the San Diego University for Integrative Studies to create a program that promotes social emotional training in young people who are coached in life as much as in sports.

Ever since he came out to the public in February 2007, former NBA player John Amaechi says he has been “that big gay guy.” But there is much more to the 6’10” former center than that. He is one of the very few NBA players with a Ph.D.—after eight years in the big leagues, he returned to academics to pursue a degree in psychology. In this lesson from Big Think+, he shares with you the plan he created as a child to help him accomplish his dreams. The most important step, he says, is knowing yourself and getting clear about your end goal.
4 min