Finding common ground on the basketball court
When one thinks about the relationship between the US and Luxembourg, basketball is probably not the first thing that springs to mind. But, with the development of sporting exchanges between the Grand Duchy and US, this sport is more important than ever as a bond uniting the two nations.
The US Embassy to Luxembourg celebrated that special link with a reception on Monday evening when it invited US nationals playing basketball in Luxembourg and young Luxembourg players who would like to improve their skills by studying in the US.
“I’m a huge basketball fan so I was delighted when I came here two years ago and learned how passionate Luxembourgers are about one of America’s favourite sports,” US Ambassador to Luxembourg Robert A Mandell said, adding that basketball was a “great common denominator for the US and Luxembourg.”
Every year each professional basketball club in Luxembourg recruits two men and two women US nationals to play for a season, boosting the standard of the game in Luxembourg while giving the visitors experience living abroad.
Jefferson Mason came to Luxembourg in August this year from Minneapolis to play for Contern with another US national, Rahlir Jefferson. He said he has already seen some positive results.
“The American players bring the level of basketball up and provide leadership and those types of things,” he told wort.lu/en at the reception, adding: “For us it’s an experience of a lifetime. I love playing basketball and to be able to do that every day, it’s a great benefit for me.”
Comparing the style of the game in the two countries, Rahlir said that the game was a little slower in Luxembourg than in the US, meanwhile players in Luxembourg on average tended to be a little bit shorter. He said: “When we arrived people looked up to us and would say ‘wow, you’re very tall!’” On the whole, though, he said that it didn’t differ hugely and the players even spoke English on the court.
For young basketball players in Luxembourg, the chances of doing the same and playing professional basketball in the US may be slimmer but not impossible with the right coaching.
Felip Flammang, 18, who studies at the Sport Lycée and attended the event, was optimistic and said he would like to make a career out of basketball if he can. He said: “Maybe I can go to the US and do a Masters there and play basketball at the same time.”