Myles Hesson was a five-year-old shopping with his grandma the last time he saw anything to do with basketball at Birmingham’s Smithfield Market.
‘It’s funny because there used to be a sports shop there and they had this big, fake Michael Jordan outside of it,’ smiles the 32-year-old. ‘It was a 6ft 6in mannequin with a Chicago Bulls vest, but it had the wrong number on it!
‘I noticed it every time I walked through the market with my grandma. There are a lot of memories for me at that place.’
Basketball star Myles Hesson is eager to take part in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham
Hesson will look to make some new memories at the site of the historic market, which will host 3×3 basketball and beach volleyball at the Commonwealth Games, when England start their campaign against New Zealand on Saturday.
‘It is crazy,’ the born-and-bred Brummie tells Sportsmail. ‘To play basketball in my hometown and represent England at the Commonwealth Games, which I used to watch as a kid, you couldn’t write a better story.’
Hesson, who hails from the northern suburb of Great Barr, is one of the poster boys of Birmingham 2022, and his sport will be one of the main attractions.
It is the first time 3×3 basketball — where three-a-side matches are played on a half-court with one basket — has featured at the Games. Hesson hopes it will inspire a new generation to take up the format.
‘From what I’ve heard they are putting down at Smithfield, it’s going to be one of the best showcases for sports at the Games outside of athletics,’ he says. ‘A lot of fans will really enjoy coming down and watching it live.
Hesson’s basketball career has seen him represent Great Britain, and play in Europe and Asia
Hesson, who’s from the northern suburb of Great Barr, is one of the poster boys of the Games
‘If you don’t know anything about basketball, 3×3 is easier to watch than 5×5. It’s a great version of the game. It’s more aggressive, more intense and quicker. It’s really exciting to watch.’
Birmingham 2022 promises to be the biggest shot in the arm for basketball in this country since London 2012, which featured a Great Britain team captained by Luol Deng, then of Chicago Bulls.
Birmingham 2022 promises to be the biggest shot in the arm for basketball in this country since London 2012
Hesson has fond memories from that time, having been part of Team GB’s training camp, even if he did not make the final squad.
‘Just to see some of the best players in Britain at that time, like Deng, was great,’ he says. ‘I was just there trying to learn and soak up all the knowledge I could, seeing what it took to get to that level.’
Hesson, though, is still annoyed that British basketball could not make the most of the buzz of London. The sport was stripped of its UK Sport funding in the run-up to the next Olympics in Rio.
‘It was really disappointing,’ he admits. ‘To see the trajectory that we were on, to not have any funding afterwards really put a downer on it. Even today, the Under 20s team I came through, they are not playing in any European competitions this summer because of a lack of funding. That could have been someone’s opportunity to be seen and they might not get that again.’
Fortunately, Hesson did not fall through the cracks and he has gone on to enjoy a fine professional career, playing in leagues in Germany, France and now Japan.
He initially took up basketball at school and it became his focus when asthma caused him to give up his first love, football.
‘Every football match I played, I’d pretty much have an asthma attack,’ Hesson explains. ‘With football, once you are subbed off, that’s you finished for the game. It was becoming frustrating. With basketball, the asthma problems were still there, but I could sub off and come back.’
International player Hesson started focusing on basketball properly while still at school
Basketball became his focus when asthma caused him to give up his first love, football
Hesson joined the City of Birmingham Basketball Club aged 14, then moved on to the Birmingham Aces and played in the British Basketball League for Essex Pirates and Mersey Tigers.
After failing to land a dream scholarship in the USA, I have forged a career in Europe instead, before moving to Japan last year.
‘I had been playing in Europe for the past 10 years, so it was another step for me to experience something new,’ he says.
‘I have loved it. Opening your eyes to different cultures and different ways of life makes you a more rounded person.’
This summer, though, there is no place like home. ‘To play in front of my family and friends will be an amazing experience,’ he says. ‘It’s hard to say what our chances are because 3×3 is pretty new for England as a team. But we are definitely going to try to get a gold.’
It’s #GameTime! Find out more about how basketball can change lives and get involved at basketballengland.co.uk.