Argentina and was feeling a bit homesick. This memory came to mind last week as I stood in line to board a flight, from Lima to Los Angeles, in which there was another tall young black man who, as it happened, would briefly occupy the aisle seat next to me in coach (I had the window, but had hoped there would be nobody alongside on a flight that was not quite full).
De Angelo Kirkland, stepped out to let me take my seat and then curled up in a near fetal position to prepare for takeoff. As we waited, I asked whether he had been playing basketball in Argentina and, indeed, he had – living in the provincial capital of Paraná (pictured above), about 500 km northwest of Buenos Aires. From Pensacola, Florida, the 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) forward had played college ball at Columbus State, in Georgia, and then moved south until very recently, when a Japanese team bought out his contract from the Argentines.
The Japanese opportunity came about because his cousin, who already plays in Japan, recommended him to the coach there. To get to Japan, though, he would have to take a four-hour flight from Buenos Aires to Lima, a nine-hour flight from Lima to Los Angeles and, after a brief layover, another 12-hour flight to Tokyo followed by yet another flight to Seoul where he would have to apply for a Japanese work visa.
Shortly after takeoff, LAN’s cabin crew found him additional leg room in an exit row, and I had two seats to myself for the remainder of the flight. I spoke to him again, briefly, on arrival in Los Angeles, but would have liked to have learned whether he had further professional ambitions – a Google search tells me he went undrafted by the NBA and, at age 25, his window for doing so could be relatively brief.