Entertainment

Felipe López: What You Need To Know About The Legendary NBA Star Being Called Dominican Jordan

Latinos have smashed almost every glass ceiling in professional sports in the United States. It is common to see Dominicans (did anyone say Alex Rodriguez?), Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and Mexicans, among others, hit the ball out of the park or pitch the perfect game in professional Major League Baseball.

World boxing is dominated by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans (Saúl Canelo Álvarez just signed the richest contract for any athlete in history with streaming service DAZN, $350 million for eleven fights over six years). However, there are two sporting arenas that remain elusive for nuestra gente: the NFL and the NBA. Latinos who have become stars in basketball or football are few and far in between, which makes the improbable journey of Dominican NBA player Felipe López all the more extraordinary.

López’s life and career is the subject matter of the new film Dominican Dream, which launched at the Tribeca Film Festival this May 2019. Here are some facts for this true legend and one of the many faces of Latino pride in the United States professional sports landscape. 

Here’s all you need to know about the film that honors Felipe López.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Joining great documentaries on basketball, such as the unmissable Hoop Dreams, this feature directed by Jonathan Hock tells the rags-to-riches story of our beloved López, who in 1994, at the mere age of 17, was the hottest prospect in basketball. His journey all the way to the NBA was a given. Los sueños sí pueden cumplirse. This film is part of ESPN’s series 30 for 30. The director had previously helmed Through the Fire, the story of another young basketball star, Sebastian Telfair. You can watch the trailer here

He was once known as “the Dominican Michael Jordan.”

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Felipe’s smart moves, athleticism, and quick reactions earned him the moniker of “the Dominican Michael Jordan”. To be compared to the greatest basketball player of all time is quite something, and that in itself turned Felipe into a bastion of Dominican pride. In fact, Felipe wanted the film to be more about immigration than the courts. He told CBS: “Jonathan Hock introduced it to me not as a basketball story, but more as an immigration story. I loved it because to me, it’s a topic that we are living. There are so many migrating families going through adversity coming into the country.”

His journey in the NBA was bittersweet.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Felipe was touted as the next big thing in professional sports after being an absolute star in St John’s High School. He played only for four seasons in the NBA, which makes his journey a bit of an anticlimactic and tragic one for some. After the NBA, where he played for the Vancouver Grizzlies, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Washington Wizards. He never got to hold the prized championship trophy. 

López moved to the United States with his family when he was only 14 years old.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Luis Felipe (his full, telenovela name!) was born on December 19, 1974, in Santiago. With his family, he then settled in the New York area when he was a teenager. Just three years after arriving in los estates, he was gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, perhaps the most important sports publication in the world. 

His dad was also a sportsman: de tal palo tal astilla.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Like many in the isla bonita, Felipe’s dad had a fondness for baseball. He participated in the amateur baseball league of the Dominican Republic. 

He played for Rice High School in New York City. Guess who else came out of New York high schools.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

No other than NBA stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) and Dean Meminger, who at the time was also considered top prospects. 

He played college basketball for St. John’s Red Storm.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

This team is proudly New Yorker and hails from St. John’s University in Queens. The team plays in the Big East Conference and has one of the biggest followings in the NCAA. What a way to start! 

López made quite a mark in his college team.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

He is one of the top four scorers (he recently went from third to fourth place) in the team’s history. Not bad for a recent migrant trying to achieve his dreams, eh! 

He was first picked by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1998 NBA Draft.

Credit: front. Digital Image. Beckett Upper Deck

He never got to play with stars like David Robinson, as he was quickly exchanged for Antonio Daniels and went to play for the Canadian team Vancouver Grizzlies. The fact that the NBA was just testing the ground in the Canadian market might have contributed to the bumpy road that Felipe had during his first steps in the league. One can only imagine what he could have accomplished with the San Antonio Spurs. 

He played 112 games for the Grizzlies.

Credit: fvi8ne1512773910. Digital image. The Sports DB

As happens with a lot of professional athletes that are traded like objects (there are serious ethical issues with this), Felipe was then sent to play with the Washington Wizards in 2000. He then became a free agent and played with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team with which he last saw action in the NBA. He signed with the Dallas Mavericks and trained with Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Clippers, but never played a game with these teams. We can see that his career was full of ups and downs, through which he kept his cool and a positive and generous attitude. 

His game in the NBA never quite reached the level of his high school and college days.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

In the NBA he averaged 5.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and one assist per game. To be honest, these are OK numbers, but nothing too impressive by superstar standards. 

He was a pioneer, though: he was the first high-school athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, sí señor.

Credit: Instagram. d10b86e6-71d7-4f85-bb60-be89cc216aeb-782×1024. Digital image. The Big Hoop. 

Can you imagine being a Latino kid in the 1990s and see this cover? The Statue of Liberty on the background and a playful yet imposing Afro-Latino dynamo being the face of basketball? There perhaps too many expectations around Felipe’s career, which he acknowledged in an interview for SI, saying he wasn’t able to“make it all come together … and make it be the story that everyone wanted it to be.”

He is generous by nature and he established The Felipe Lopez Foundation

Credit: https://www.felipelopez13.com/foundation. Digital image. 

As a teenager, Lopez saw a way out of trouble (he was too busy shooting hoops!), but he knows that not all kids have the same opportunities. Out of his church in the South Bronx, he offers a space for kids from 5 to 17 years-old to be better students and better peers. Way to go, hermano! By the way, he also works with USA Basketball to develop clinics all around the country. We think that Felipe’s Dominican-American Dream is alive and well, thank you very much.

READ: Learn How Basketball Superstar Carmelo Anthony Got Where He Is Today In 21 Steps

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These Latino Athletes Have Delivered The Most Iconic Moments In Sports History

Entertainment

These Latino Athletes Have Delivered The Most Iconic Moments In Sports History

Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images

Latin American and U.S. Latino athletes have given the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world countless moments of joy, pride, and hope. Latin American sportswomen and men usually come from disadvantaged backgrounds so their stories of pride and success inspire us even more. It would be almost impossible to enumerate all the triumphs achieved by Latin American athletes, but we are listing the Most Iconic Moments In Sports. Sí se puede!

When Diego Armando Maradona scored the infamous but glorious goal known as “La mano de Dios” (“The hand of God”)
June 22, 1986, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, in a quarterfinals game against bitter rivals England

Diego Armando Maradona
Credit: romanzosportivo / Instagram

This has got to be the single most controversial moment in World Cup history. Argentina was facing England in the quarterfinals and Maradona jumped to hit the ball with his head. But thing is, he actually hit it with his hand and the ball penetrated the net. The English were of course appalled, but this event remains one of the most memorable in the long history of joy and drama of the Argentinian national team. We got to also remember that there was some bad blood between Argentina and England at the time, a product of the Falklands War. 

When Ana Gabriela Guevara excelled in an Olympic event that was uncharted territory for Latina athletes
2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece

Gabriela Guevara
Credit: efemerides_de_famosos / Instagram

Ana Gabriela Guevara, who is now a very controversial politician, gained notoriety for scoring a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. She competed in 400m, a test that Mexican track athletes don’t generally excel. But she proved that she is one of a kind. 

When Mexican boxing legend Julio César Chávez pulled off a miracle and knocked out Meldrick Taylor in the last few seconds of their championship unification fight
March 17, 1990, Las Vegas, Nevada

César Chávez
Credit: jcchavez115 / Instagram

In a rare encounter, the world’s two best boxers met for a unification fight. Both were unbeaten and Chávez was heralded as a national hero in his native Mexico. The fight was as tough as it gets, with both boxers sustaining enormous amounts of punishment. With 17 seconds left on the clock and behind in the scorecards Julio César connected with a massive right hand. The contest was stopped with two seconds left: a boxing miracle of the highest order.

When Fernando Valenzuela became a baseball hero and an icon of Mexican-American pride and excellence
1981-1986

Fernando Valenzuela
Credit: 5browncrew / Instagram

Fernando “El Toro” Valenzuela became an icon of Latino sportsmanship after an excellent 1981 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was one of the first Mexicans to break into the mainstream in the United States. He inspired and continues to inspire, millions of paisanos. He was an All-Star in each season of his incredible 1981-1986 run. 

When Gabriela Sabatini demonstrated that Latinas can excel in the tennis court
US Open, 1990, Womens’ Tennis champion!

Gaby Sabatini
Credit: sabatinigaby / Instagram

Tennis is a perilous sport for Latin Americans because it is mostly dominated by the United States and Europe. But Gaby Sabatini showed that Latino girls can be ace too! She won the U.S. Open in 1990, defeating the German Stefi Graf. Una dama del deporte blanco en toda la extensión de la palabra.

When Colombian dynamo Nairo Quintana reached the stars on his bike
Since 2012

Nairo Quintana
Credit: nairoquintanaoficial / Instagram

Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas is perhaps the greatest Colombian cyclist of all time. That is a big claim considering the long and glorious history of the sport in Colombia. Quintana is known for his sustained attacks during steep hills: when most of his adversaries struggle, he has his best performance. He was won multiple stages of the Tour de France and the Giro di Italia. 

When Felipe “Tibio” Muñoz swam toward a gold medal and got a whole country celebrating after some pretty traumatizing events
1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City

El Tibio
Credit: mexico_68_el_tibio_munoz. Digital image. El Grafico

Prior to the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Mexicans had experienced a traumatizing event when the army attacked a group of students and civilians who were protesting at the Tlatelolco Square. The country was split emotionally and politically. But then came “El Tibio” and at least for a brief moment, the country was united behind a young man who swam his way to a gold medal. The memory of his accomplishment is still brought up today when thinking of the greatest sporting moments in Latin American history. 

When Ecuadorian athlete Jefferson Perez won an Olympic gold medal in the Atlanta Olympic Games
Atlanta Olympic Games, 1996

Jefferson Perez
Credit: jeffersonperezq / Instagram

Ecuador doesn’t have a strong Olympic team, and medals have been few and far in between. That is why Jefferson Perez is a standout in the sporting history of this proud South American nation. During the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Perez did the unthinkable. As Rihannon Walker writes in The Undefeated: “Ecuador’s Jefferson Pérez, Russia’s Ilya Markov and Mexico’s Bernardo Segura struggled to find separation from one another as they neared the finish of the 20-kilometer walk at the 1996 Olympics. Then Pérez began to take advantage of having the youngest legs of the trio and powered himself into the lead. As a crowd of 85,000 waited to see who would be the first to appear at Olympic Stadium, Pérez made a dramatic solo entrance and finished in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 7 seconds to become the youngest gold medalist in the 20-km event at 22. His victory also secured Ecuador’s first Olympic medal.” Just wow, a moment to remember forever. 

When Teófilo Stevenson reigned supreme in amateur boxing. Viva Cuba!
1972, 1975, and 1980 Olympic Games in Munich, Montreal, and Moscow

Most Iconic Moments In Sports
Credit: saintmax55 / Instagram

In the 1970s Muhammad Ali was the greatest name in heavyweight boxing, but he was perhaps not the best. Many believe that amateur legend Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba would have beat the great Ali. But, alas, Cuban boxers were not allowed to turn professional and a fight between the two never materialized. Stevenson’s amateur career extended 20 years, from 1969 to 1986. He won a total of three gold medals, un logro extraordinario

When “Las espectaculares morenas del Caribe” Cuban female volleyball team captured the world’s imagination and won three consecutive Olympic gold medals
Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

Most Iconic Moments In Sports
Credit: AAuFzt9. Digital image. MSN. 

This group of amazing Cuban ladies totally dominated volleyball for three Olympic Games, and then won the bronze in their fourth attempt. Puro Cuba! 

When Costa Rican swimmer Claudia Poll surprised everyone and became a national icon
Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games

Most Iconic Moments In Sports
Credit: AAuFGZl. Digital image. MSN

This amazing woman was born in Nicaragua but later became a Costa Rican citizen. She won a gold medal in the Atlanta Games (a big year for Latino athletes!) and is considered the greatest sports figure in the history of the Central American nation. She also won two bronze medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. A true force of nature.

READ: 11 Unusual Sports You Can Find In Latin America

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After 105 Years, the Cleveland Indians Will Finally Change Its Racist Name and Donald Trump is Not Happy

Entertainment

After 105 Years, the Cleveland Indians Will Finally Change Its Racist Name and Donald Trump is Not Happy

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After 105 years of having a racist moniker as their team name, the Cleveland Indians has finally decided to change their name.

The New York Times broke the news on Sunday, speaking to three anonymous sources with inside information. Per the Times, the baseball team will apparently formally announce the news as early as this week.

The Cleveland Indians have long come under criticism for having what many consider a racial slur against Native Americans as their team name.

Crystal Echo Hawk, an indigenous activist and member of Pawnee tribe once told USA Today that sports teams that brand themselves with Native American imagery “impacts not only how people view us, but also how we view ourselves. These mascots propagate offensive stereotypes, and scientific studies have shown they increase rates of depression and anxiety among our youth.”

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

In 2018, the Cleveland Indians retired the mascot they’d had for 71 years, “Chief Wahoo”. “Chief Wahoo” was a racist caricature of a Native American. The mascot had bright red skin, an exaggerated nose, and a feather pinned to the back of his head. Ironically, the mascot last appeared on the players’ uniforms on Indigenous Peoples’ Day/Columbus Day in 2018.

Native Americans have long called for the Cleveland Indians to retire their mascot and change their name.

According to the sources that The New York Times interviewed, the transition from being called the “Indians” to a new name (one that is still undecided) will be a difficult one. The Cleveland baseball team will have to phase out all merchandise, retire their current uniforms, and work with a manufacturer to create new equipment and signage. In other words, they have an expensive undertaking ahead of them. One that probably should have been done a long time ago.

The decision to finally change the team’s offensive name comes after a tumultuous year where many American institutions faced a racial reckoning.

Many spokespeople of old that were rooted in minstrelsy, like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, were retired by brands in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. It appears that the Cleveland baseball team has also finally heeded its critics.

In July, the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins finally dropped their offensive name as well. The team now goes by the Washington Football Team while they decide on a new name.

But of course, not everyone is happy with the name change. Some believe that the MLB team is becoming too “politically correct”.

None other than President Trump tweeted out his displeasure at the news, calling it “not good news” and claiming that the name change was “cancel culture at work”.

Contrary to what Trump thinks, when a brand evolves to be less offensive and respect the culture of a marginalized community, it isn’t giving into “cancel culture”, but is actually…working towards a better world. We know Donnie doesn’t know much about that.

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