Interview: Alexis Ajinça [fr]
Several weeks ago, we sat down with French basketball star, Alexis Ajinça, who told us what it’s like to be French in the NBA, his impressions of New Orleans, and what he misses most about France.
Why did you choose basketball, when you come from a country dominated by soccer?
Alexis: I had a family friend that played basketball. I was a competitive BMX biker before that. My friend wanted me to try basketball since I was already taller than average. He told me that I might have a better career in basketball than in bicycling. I tried it, but that didn’t stop me from playing soccer everyday growing up.
What is your experience as a French person in New Orleans?
Alexis: I’ve already found quite a few French restaurants, so I’ve been able to enjoy that. Otherwise, I haven’t really met any people who speak French yet. As of now, I haven’t met one person who spoke French. I find that a little surprising. But there are a few stores, a few restaurants that are French. That’s cool.
Are there some aspects of American culture that surprise you?
Alexis: The thing that surprises me the most is how people say hello. In France, we offer our hand more. Here, you say hello with just a nod of the head. In France, we offer our hand as a sign of respect. That’s a little bizarre. But anyway, it’s been five, six, almost ten years that I’ve been here now. So, I understand how it’s done.
Do you see a difference in the American and French mentalities toward sports?
Alexis: Basketball is already different than other sports. Here, there are more games and the public is more enthusiastic in certain situations. In French basketball, it’s more – they encourage a little bit more. It depends on the crowd. There are plenty of crowds who don’t say anything at all. But it’s true that what I like about the United States is that people live for sports. It’s pretty enormous.
Do you see a difference between French and American coaches and trainers?
Alexis: I would say that in French basketball, it’s more social. The coach talks a little more to all the players. It depends. There is an aspect, an approach that is different when it comes to coaching. So, it’s true that when I arrived here it was different.
Why is French American Night with the Pelicans important to you?
Alexis: It’s nice to see all the French people. I’m looking forward to seeing them again, and even more this time!
What aspects of French culture do you miss?
Alexis: I would say the food, because even though there are French restaurants here, they don’t have the same ingredients as in France. The taste is different. There are certain specialties that you don’t find here. Cheese and stuff like that. I would say lardons for sure.
What do you have coming up for 2015?
Alexis: There is the French National Team for the World Cup of Basketball coming up in 2015 that will be in France. That’s going to be pretty important. I don’t know yet if I’ll be part of the team. I hope they keep me on. We’ll see what happens.
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