Ekpe Udoh – the first time I saw this man was in Turkey. He was walking out of the gymnasium with books under his arm after a practice session. I was baffled as I had never seen a basketball player with books – real stories. But the story began way before that.
Ekpedeme Friday “Ekpe” Udoh is of Nigerian heritage but has grown up in Oklahoma his whole life. After spending his first two college seasons at Michigan, the 6-foot-10 forward spent the final season of his college career in the Big 12 with Baylor. During his only season in Baylor, Ekpe averaged 13.9 points on 49% from the field with 9.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game.
Before declaring for the draft, Ekpe was named an honourable mention for the AP All-American Team and earned bids to the All-Big 12 Second Team and All-Big 12 Defensive Team. In 2010, Ekpe declared for the NBA Draft, where he was drafted at number six by the Warriors.
Over the years, Ekpe has played for the Bucks, Clippers, Utah Jazz, and also played internationally with EuroLeague side Fenerbahçe, where he won the EuroLeague championship; he was named the EuroLeague Final Four MVP after his performance in the Final Four. He has also gone on to play in the CBA, where he currently still plays.
But for me, his impact has been what he has done with his time over the last couple of years via social media. Ekpe has used his experiences through travelling to educate his peers, fans, and his more expansive community. He launched the Ekpe Book Club, which notably received the attention of the former first lady Michelle Obama.
Ekpe Udoh is a silent giant standing at 6ft 10 with a wingspan of 7ft 4, and for me, his most significant impact has been his willingness to educate and help his community do better.
Having the opportunity after ten years to have this conversation with him was inspiring. Sharing the knowledge on his journey, education, his heritage, future basketball players, the importance of treating women well and also, why knowledge is power has been a positive wholesome experience for me in a year that has been terrible.
My takeaway from the conversation was that basketball continues to be a tool that can change lives forever. Educating your community is a responsibility for all; speaking up and treating women with the respect they deserve is a must while focusing on your calling is also imperative. And to add, the fact that I have now met one other basketball player that is into tea as much as I am, along with Jaylen Brown, makes my soul happy also. This is an exceptional club 🙂