Just a couple of weeks ago, one of Great Britain Basketball’s all-time greats Kieron Achara received an MBE for services to community sport after being named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2020.
In the 16 months between his nomination and investiture as a Member of the British Empire, Achara was rightly lauded with praise and kind words from across the British basketball community and with a short time having passed since the Princess Royal honoured him at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, we caught up with the GB legend to discuss his achievement in more depth.
“It was a very special day, a special moment,” he said. “It was strange because I was honoured to be nominated for an MBE almost two years ago, but the ceremony has obviously only just taken place.
“Throughout that whole period I’ve had so much gratitude for everybody that has reached out and said kind things, making me feel really, really good, and the way the basketball community embraced my achievement as well was a really cool feeling.
“At the same time, I know that basketball needs to do better at finding that exposure because there are so many more people within our community that are worthy of these honours and awards, but I’m just proud to be flying the flag for them and for my family.”
“If you keep going, keep working hard and be a good person, good things will happen.”
Stating back in 2020 that being recognised for his work in the community in this way was the pinnacle of his career, Achara has certainly acted as an inspirational figure for many throughout his years or service to the sport we all love.
On reflection, he still admits that he has to pinch himself at what he’s done, but also discusses why he thinks he has been able to achieve so many incredible feats over the years, and what message he’d give to the next generation who will surely be inspired by his example.
“Even to this day I still look back and think ‘wow’ about what basketball has given me and what I’ve been able to achieve, so it does show what is possible, but at the same time I never put that pressure on myself and just embraced and enjoyed the ride.
“I think young people now put way too much pressure on themselves to achieve certain things when actually what is important is getting the infrastructure right, making sure that you’re working hard and just knowing that anything is possible.
“Achievements are the by-product of the work that you put in, so just try to be the best person you can be. That does take a lot of thinking about, reflecting on your actions and learning from your mistakes, but having that belief that you can achieve something and aiming for goals is important. I’ve been told I wasn’t good enough, but if you keep going, keep working hard and be a good person and good things will happen.”
“I’m really proud of what is going on in British Basketball right now.”
Of course, we couldn’t chat to Kieron without discussing the current state of play in British Basketball, with exciting futures laying ahead for both the Men’s and Women’s teams.
With crucial FIBA 2023 World Cup Qualifiers awaiting the Men’s side over the coming months, as well as a trip to EuroBasket 2022, before the Women’s team return to action towards the end of the year for their own EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers, Achara feels there is a very positive future ahead.
“What I love about the Men’s team right now is how close they are as a group. They have a belief system and a belief in themselves. A lot of people say they’ve pulled off some upsets, but those players won’t see any of the results as upsets – just them achieving what they’re capable of – and the focal reason for that is their bond and belief. If they keep that belief, anything is possible.
“The Women’s team perhaps more than anyone have a lot to look forward to, with so many great talents coming through. Watching the likes of the London Lions and the core group of British players in their squad, that can only enhance the game by keeping our best talent at home. Coach Chema has done a really good job of developing the culture and cohesion within that squad.
“If we’re having a good year, good results and so on then what does that look like for the future? We must keep our focus on that legacy and for me that comes back to grassroots, making sure the next generation are inspired and there’s an infrastructure for them to come through. I’m really proud to see what is going on in British Basketball right now, but the future has to be a constant focus too.”
Get your tickets to support GB Men’s in FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifying action against Belarus on 28 February at the Vertu Motors Arena in Newcastle here!
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