EXCLUSIVE: The most decorated player in the BBL’s history is now in his 18th consecutive season with the Newcastle Eagles
Darius Defoe, the most decorated and successful player in the history of the British Basketball League, has seen a lot in his time with the Newcastle Eagles.
Now in his 18th consecutive season with the team ‘Mr 27’ has been involved in every one of the club’s 27 title wins.
But at the heart of his journey has been a transformation from a boy to a man.
Originally from Dominica, Defoe grew up in North London and joined the Eagles as an 18-year-old after graduating from the Hackney Community College Basketball Academy Programme.
But 18 seasons later – a feat he never thought he’d achieve – his world has completely changed in what is now his first home of Newcastle.
“I’ve learned a lot in life,” says Defoe reflecting on his career.
“I’ve learned a lot from being a kid to a grown man now – being an adult and learning how to look after people.
“When I first came to Newcastle I was 18. Fab [Fabulous Flourney] was the coach and he took me and my friend under his wing. He showed us the way to treat people.
“That’s what I’m trying to do now. If there’s a rookie or young boy on the team I want to show him the same way that Fab showed me.”
When asked for an example of some of those values Flourney instilled in him, Defoe’s response is clear.
“Give respect,” he says. “Treat people the way you want to be treated.
“You might not have a lot but as a young guy coming up, or a young guy playing basketball, you [as a senior player] might treat him to something once in a while.
“Are you hungry? Do you want to go out for food?
“Be an adult towards them.”
“Being a dad made me so proud”
Not only does Defoe’s journey encapsulate becoming a man, but it’s also seen him become a dad.
While he has enjoyed remarkable longevity on the court, with his kids around him now it has made this chapter of his life far more special.
“Yes it does, knowing that my two kids can see me play the sport of basketball,” he explains.
“I always say to myself – we also have a programme called Hoops for Help – going to different schools around the North East, talking to the kids, trying to help them to live a healthy lifestyle.
“I always told myself I want to see my kids see me in their school talking about how to live a healthy lifestyle and finally I got the chance to go to my girl’s school last week.
“Being a dad made me so proud – the only thing I couldn’t do was cry in front of the kids! It was unbelievable.”
And as for that title of ‘Mr 27, there is every hope that it could soon become Mr 28 and beyond in the future. But there has been a secret to that longevity in the BBL as well.
“It’s the love of the sport,” Defoe says.
“Like I say, all I know is basketball so it has to be for the love of the sport, and how you look after yourself at the same time, to give you the drive to go practice and the weights and everything that comes with it.”
“You have to be patient with them”
As well as continuing his playing career, Defoe has also taken steps into the coaching side of things this year as he coaches Newcastle’s U23s.
He admitted he had never thought about the possibility of coaching, until the owner asked him in the summer to take charge of the youth side.
“Learn to listen! Defoe says, when asked what the main thing he has learned is.
“I’ve found out it’s harder than you think.
“Playing-wise I want to win but, being a coach, you also want to win but it’s hard, it’s hard to win every game.
“You have to take it a game at a time and be patient.”
He adds: “You have to be patient with them [the players]. You have to know that their mindset might not be the same as mine and listen to what they’ve got to say.
“Also you need to listen to other coaches to help them.”
- For more information and to keep up to date with Newcastle Eagles this season visit www.bbl.org.uk