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

felipelopez13 / Instagram

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

This Mexican Boxer Just Pulled The Most Iconic Upset Making History As The First Mexican Heavyweight Champion

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This Mexican Boxer Just Pulled The Most Iconic Upset Making History As The First Mexican Heavyweight Champion

History was made over the weekend when Andy Ruiz Jr. pulled off the biggest heavyweight upset of his generation. With a technical knock out (TKO) in the seventh round, Ruiz knocked out three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua to become the first boxer of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight title.

It was a moment few saw coming and even more could ever imagine as Ruiz wasn’t even scheduled to be involved in the match as early as six weeks ago. He was a replacement for what was supposed to be a match between Joshua and Jarrell Miller, who submitted three positive drug tests.

At 6-foot-2 and 268 pounds, Ruiz proved he was fit enough to knock down Joshua four times and complete the amazing upset.

Prior to Saturday night, Ruiz entered the match as a huge +1100 underdog. These odds made his seventh-round victory over the then-undefeated Joshua notable, marking one of the biggest upsets in recent heavyweight boxing history.

It took less than 20 minutes for the 29-year-old boxer became the WBA, IBF, IBO, and WBO heavyweight champion. But it was after the fight where Ruiz made the upset even more special when he recognized the gravity of the moment.

“I just feel so good, man,” Ruiz said, according to USA Today. “This is what I’ve been dreaming about, this is what I’ve been working hard for. I can’t believe I just made my dreams come true.”

Ruiz grew up in the U.S.-Mexico border town of Imperial, east of San Diego.

Ruiz comes from humble beginnings as he grew up in a farming town near the U.S.-Mexico border. From the age of six, Ruiz started his boxing career and would train with his father. He would take Ruiz with him for daily training sessions in Mexicali and would endure 90-minute waits at the border crossing.

Ahead of the match, Ruiz acknowledged the significance of what a victory would mean not only to him but Mexicans overall. He said at times it bothers him “the way a lot of people talk about Mexicans” and wanted the fight to prove otherwise.

“It means a lot, especially knowing I’ve worked from 6 years old to get to where I’m at now,” Ruiz told the LA Times. “But it won’t mean something only to me. Each Mexican has his own dream, and I’ve come to believe as long as we focus, you can accomplish anything you want. So maybe by winning, I can change some minds.”

In a heartfelt moment after the fight, Ruiz said the victory meant he wouldn’t “have to struggle no more.”

In an emotional press conference, Ruiz was moved to tears as he thanked his trainers and family. But it was the moment that Ruiz brought up his mother and the struggles they’ve endured that brought the moment into perspective.

“Mom, I love you, Our lives are gonna change. We don’t have to struggle no more,” Ruiz said as a Mexican flag hung behind him. “Thanks to god, everything happened for a reason.”

Even Joshua took the time to congratulate Ruiz over the upset victory.

Well, many had expected Joshua to win the fight without much challenge, Ruiz proved it’s not always that easy. Throughout boxing history, there have been many upsets and this match etched its name to that long list.

Joshua humbly congratulated Ruiz for the victory on Twitter saying “This is Andy’s night, congratulations Champ.” Even former UFC champion Conor McGregor chimed in on the upset. “It is never over until it’s over with the Mexicans. God bless them. Congrats Andy Ruiz.”

The world will never forget the night the first boxer of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight title was crowned.

Many online acknowledged not only the upset but who Ruiz is as a person and what he represents. “Congratulations Andy Ruiz Jr – you are a real-life Rocky 👏👏👏👏👏 Viva Le Mexico, I hope this is going to inspire the next generation,” one Twitter user said.

Another Twitter user said Ruiz represents the best of Mexicans with the hard nose victory. “They might be born in the US but they know damn straight to represent 🇲🇽🇲🇽 because we have fucking heart and the drive. They have that Mexican blood and that’s what counts.”

Ruiz represents the best of us all. Counted down but never out. His story is one of many that brings pride and true resilience in the face of adversity.

“I wanted to prove everybody wrong, all the doubters thinking I was going to lose,” Ruiz said. “I can’t believe I just made my dreams come true.”

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