It’s the quintessential American story as they call it, Dominican Republic native Felipe Lopez transcended the American culture during his prolific basketball journey. Felipe fled to New York City at the age of 14, speaking no lick of English and being outside of his comfort zone. Despite all the stacked obstacles, Felipe was able to carve a unique path, which led him to a historical program in St. John’s and to the NBA. Jonathan Hock and ESPN teamed up to produce the documentary titled “The Dominican Dream”. This documentary captures the defining story of Felipe Lopez from the beginning of his journey; it premiered on April 30th at 9pm.
Growing up in the South Bronx where gang culture and the drug epidemic was at an all-time high, Felipe decided to stay close to his family and the basketball courts. He attended the Rice High School in Harlem, NY. During his tenure as a raider, Felipe garnered some attention, becoming the top recruit in the country. During his senior campaign Felipe won the CHSAA City Championships defeating perennial powerhouse St. Rays and was named to the 1994 McDonald’s All-American Game. Felipe then decided to be the hometown hero and play for the St. John’s Red Storm joining All-American Zendon Hamilton. This is when the SUPER FRESHMEN was born. Felipe Lopez was the first High School athlete to grace the cover of Sports illustrated, paving the way from HS stars such as Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Jabari Parker.
After his Sports Illustrated cover shoot, Felipe and the St. John Red Storm were in for a big surprise. Felipe had a bulls eye on his back and every team in the Big east wanted to see if Lopez would live up to the hype. In Felipe’s freshman year the Red Storm finished 8th in the Big east with a 7-11 record. Felipe like many top freshman’s had the opportunity to enter the NBA draft, but Lopez decided to return to St.John’s. In the end it was all worth it, staying all four years cemented Felipe Lopez career as a Red Storm. In his senior year Felipe and the Red Storm finally got to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, they came up short in the first round losing to the Detroit Titans by 2 points. Felipe Lopez missed the game winner in the dying seconds of regulation. In 1998 Felipe Lopez concluded his season as a Red Storm and declared for the NBA Draft. He was drafted late in the first round, and played 4 season on 3 teams (Vancouver Grizzlies, Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves), before suffering a career-ending knee injury. Everyone had high hopes for Felipe but God had other plans.
Aside from all his unprecedented success Felipe’s story is bigger than basketball. Here is a kid from the Dominican Republic that comes to America as an immigrant, that speaks no English, and in less than 10 years graduates from a prestigious university and plays in the NBA. Felipe Lopez epitomizes the American Dream, he is also a unique representation for the Latino community in America. Felipe’s compelling narrative has inspired the courageous acts of his work today; He’s fully invested in community work through the NBA Cares. Felipe Lopez continues to break barriers and open doors for the Dominican republic, and continually affecting lives through the platform that he created. Success isn’t about what others expectations are, but fulfilling your true purpose in life.
Thanks: Sports Illustrated, ESPN, 30for30,
Figure: Felipe Lopez (NBA Cares Ambassador)