Although I was born in London, I grew up on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Barbados. To move was a decision my mum made to give me opportunities I wouldn't have in England. I realise now everything she did and sacrificed for me and my lifelong journey with basketball.
Sports have always been my portal to relaxation - being an only child it was a way for me to spend time having fun outdoors, making friends and releasing my competitive energy. The sound of my bouncing basketball would echo down the streets and alert my neighbours of my whereabouts, it used to drive them mad! But for me that sound combined with my sneakers squeaking always gave me great satisfaction. It was in those moments, at 11 years of age, that my unbreakable bond with basketball began.
It's hard to put into words how basketball has impacted my life, it has taught me so many life lessons. How to deal with pressure on and off the court, how to endure difficult sacrifices, how to be disciplined, how to push through when lacking motivation and more. When I picked up a ball all these years ago I never even considered the opportunities that would later be available to me; a scholarship in the USA or the chance to play professionally for my home town team. I’ve also visited and lived in countries I never even imagined. One of my greatest honours was representing the Barbados National Basketball team at junior and senior level. It was an extremely proud moment for me.
But as they say, "With the highs comes the lows," and I think it's the lows that have defined me to be the person I am today. During these moments there been coaches and mentors who have guided me through, for which I am extremely grateful. There are three important people who sit at the top of the list.
Firstly, the person to teach me the game was my junior coach, Derek Aimey. We are still very close to this day, to me he's been far more than just a coach. He has been the father figure I never had. His wise words, guiding heart and tough love have all helped to develop my confidence, not just a player but also as a man.
Kobe Bryant, even though we never met, inspired a kid from across the globe with his style, work ethic, charisma and mentality. The day the world lost such an iconic and amazing human was truly one of the most emotional things I have been through. The child in me felt like they'd lost their superhero. But his wisdom and his influence still live on and I will always watch his videos and educate myself on his philosophy.
Finally, the greatest person which has impacted my life is my mother. This lady is nothing short of amazing. As a single mother, I can never thank her enough for all she has sacrificed for my benefit. Everything she did was for me. Even now despite tragically suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia at such a young age she still puts my needs first. The joy to have such an amazing, strong, and loving mother makes me proud to call her mine.
My story and these three people have helped to shape my life and in today's world where sports and inspiration aren't always clear I am grateful for the strong foundations they have given me. I hope I can be that inspiration for those who look up to me from Barbados to London, but mainly for my beautiful baby boy Tobi-Cade.
Andre Lockheart plays basketball for our industry partners, London Lions.