Kentomania: A Sneak Peek at the Black Basketball Virtuoso in Communist Poland

With a “won’t be denied” attitude, he took basketball to a level that few could. Kent Washington was born in New Rochelle, New York, on January 10, 1955. The son of Ralph and Cloteal Washington and the younger brother of Kurt, he attended the New Rochelle Public Schools. While doing so, he trained relentlessly to cultivate his basketball talent. Through hard work and discipline, Kent’s high school basketball accomplishments earned him a four-year scholarship to Southampton College.

His basketball prowess commanded attention as his personal achievements grew. A basketball tour with his college to communist Poland in May 1976 provided an opportunity that he could never have imagined.

Ken Washington playing basketball in Communist Poland
Photo Courtesy Kent Washington of him playing in a game in Communist Poland
Kent Washington with his teammates
Photo courtesy Kent Washington of "Kentomania" with his teammates

Playing Professionally Behind Poland's "Iron Curtain"

Taking Poland by storm with his “imaginative” playing style, the fans were intrigued by his skill. On January 4, 1979, Kent committed to playing professionally in Poland where he became the first Black American/American to play professional basketball behind the “Iron Curtain.”

He played there for four and a half seasons, enduring the communist lifestyle while assimilating into Polish society. The personal account of his daily life there is fascinating as he gives readers an up-close look at communism, both athletically and culturally.

Kent Washington (Kentomania) at a diner in Communist Poland
Photo couretesy Kent Washington of "Kentomania" at a diner in Communist Poland

Intro to the Kentomania Book

Chapter 1 ( I’m Not Kunta Kinte ) in the memoir is a situation that took place during a basketball game in Warsaw. The shortened version is such that while our team KS Start was warming up during the pre-game. Loud chants were being sung by the overly enthusiastic crowd that packed the arena to get a look at the Black American play (me).

Playing basketball in Eastern Europe enlightened me to the fact that each team had hometown chants that were sung in unison. This noise level continued from pre-game until the game ended. I was well aware and becoming used to the continuous chants, whistling, drums, etc.

But, suddenly the chants of “Kunta Kinte,” “Kunta Kinte” echoed through the building. I thought to myself “Are they saying what I think they’re saying.” I began to grin to myself as my teammates looked at me for a reaction. I just continued laying the ball up in our pre-game as if nothing was happening. I was determined to have a breakout game!

Grab “KENTOMANIA” on Amazon (affiliate link).

Kentomania: A Black Basketball Virtuoso in Communist Poland book cover
Photo courtesy Kent Washington of Kentomania: A Black Basketball Virtuoso in Communist Poland book cover

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