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El Cucaracha Blanco
Throwback to living in Managua, Nicaragua 🇳🇮
Location: Managua, Nicaragua 🇳🇮
It was my first trip.
I was on a whirlwind tour of Central America. My four-month trip was essentially one massive bender mixed with a little bit of tourism here and there.
And I was enjoying the hell out of life.
But my time in Central America was coming to an end. Managua, Nicaragua was my last one-month stop before I jetted back home to see family and celebrate Christmas.
🇦🇷 Just me enjoying communism and dictatorships in Nicaragua 🇳🇮
Ball is Life 🏀
Between swiping my life away, partying 3-4 nights a week, making sweet “conquistar” Latinas, and doing some tourism…
I had started to play basketball again.
For reference, I was a college basketball player. Two-time all conference at the NCAA D2 level.
So even if I was a little rusty, I could mop the floor with anyone who hand’t played college or pro — gringo or local.
So when I saw an open gym filled with large, athletic looking black males — at the only indoor basketball court in Bocas del Toro, Panama 🇵🇦 — I walked right in and put on my shoes.
Yes, I traveled with hoop shoes back then.
I hooped in Bocas a few times. The first time I’d touched a ball in months. It went surprisingly well.
Two of the local guys played pro in France and a few others claimed to play pro in Panama and Costa Rica — so the competition was actually decent.
They loved a pasty gringo coming in and hooping with them for whatever reason. I got hot a few games, hit a bunch of 3s, and ended up making some friends.
This was a few months before I got to Managua.
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Fast-Forward to Managua…
I was in a taxi one afternoon in Managua and we drove by a massive park filled with like a dozen basketball courts.
As I was looking out the window, I saw some guys playing full-court who looked decent.
I made a mental note to come check it out that week. I was looking to hoop again in Central America after having a blast in Bocas del Toro.
The following day at the gym, there was a 6’7” Nicaraguan who started talking to me.
Now, Nicaraguans are usually quite short. The average male height in the country can’t be more than 5’7”
P.S: It’s not…
So why did this giant Nicaraguan start chatting with me?!
Because I was wearing my college basketball practice jersey and he was asking if I played basketball.
We got to talking in “Spanglish” and he said he played pro in Nicaragua.
I asked him about the park and he said it was the best place to play pick-up in the whole country.
Monday-Friday around 4:00PM.
“Let’s go hoop tomorrow, bro!”
And he laughed, “I can’t. I am under contract currently as the season starts here in two-months. I can only practice with the team.”
He kept going…
“But a lot of guys are still looking for teams and contracts. So the level is good.”
I decided to go the following day.
I showed up to the park around 4:00PM the following day and the games were going. I put on my shoes and sized up the competition.
Majority of the guys sucked, but each team had 1-2 guys who were surprisingly good.
I paid a bit more attention and a couple guys had on Nicaraguan National Team jerseys.
This might be fun.
I start using my shitty Spanish to see how I can get on the court.
Eventually, a black Nicaraguan dude from the Caribbean coast, who spoke fluent English, starts translating and explaining things for me.
He talks with some other guys and gets me on for the next game.
And the games go great.
The competition is way better than I expected and I’m stroking it from all over. Couple of the games I score more than half the points and we win.
I hoop for about 90-minutes and call it quits. I’m not in good shape.
I speak a bit with the black guy who speaks English and he says they play everyday at this time. Starts telling me who plays pro in Nicaragua, who plays pro abroad, and the couple guys who play for the national team.
I end up playing 3-4 days a week during my whole time in Nicaragua.
But I wasn’t the only gringo there. In fact, I wasn’t even the “best” gringo at the park most days.
El Cucaracha Blanco 🪳
On my third or fourth day playing with these guys, I notice a tall, very white guy walking towards the court.
As he steps on the court, half the guys turn to him and start making this weird, hissing noise.
We finish up the game and I find the English speaking black guy:
“Who is that guy?!”
He laughs, “Oh man! That’s “El Cucaracha Blanco” bro!”
I’m like, “Who?!”
He starts telling me about this guy…
He’s been playing pro in Central America for a decade. Leads leagues in scoring, hits tons of threes — a legend in Nicaragua!
He legit has fans in the country and he’s considered one of the best players to ever play in the league — according to this random guy.
People go to the games to scream “El Cucaracha Blanco” and hiss every damn time he touches the ball.
“El Cucaracha Blanco” = The White Cockroach
I sit out the next game and watch this guy…
Clearly a bit up there in age, but his jumper is perfect. He strokes threes from all over and posts up, then shoots fade aways.
Next game, I hoop with him.
And for the first time in LatAm, I am NOT the best gringo on the court.
We end up losing the game against him by a couple points.
Pains Me to This Day…
I go back to the gym a few days later to hit the weights. The giant Nicaraguan pulls up to the bench press to chat.
He says he “heard about me” from some of the guys at the park.
He goes, “You are very good. You should play for my team.”
I’m like, “For the pro team?!”
He responds, “Yes, we need a point guard right now for the season in a few months. Are you going to stay in Nicaragua?”
I tell him I’m going home for Christmas, but could come back after that.
We exchange contact details.
I hoop at the park for the rest of my trip, head home for Christmas, and stay in touch with the tall Nicaraguan.
Back home, the tall Nicaraguan is telling me to come back and play — every week.
He hits me up on Facebook in January saying he spoke to the team and they would offer me a contract for the season.
I was thrilled…
Except I had just torn the cartilage in my left knee dunking with my friends at the health club — and would have micro-fracture knee surgery in the coming months.
I let him know and he was upset, as he had worked to get me a contract with the team.
I was pissed too.
As this was the second time in my life my health forced me to turn down an opportunity to play “professional” basketball — the first being when I graduated college and had an offer from a very small club in Montenegro 🇲🇪
Which I turned down due to knee issues, as well.
To this day, my biggest regret in life is not playing low-level professional basketball in Nicaragua.
It would have been a dream come true for me.
But multiple knee surgeries and a couple ankle surgeries meant that wasn’t in the cards for me.
Asi es la vida.