Amir Richardson, son of former NBA great player Michael Ray Richardson, has become an anchor in the Le Havre defensive midfielder and has made significant strides in his career. In the years to come, he will have to make big decisions – one of which could be his international affiliation. Brian Sciaretta from ASN spoke with Amir Richardson and his father about his past, present and future.
06 December 2021
LIKE THE UNITED STATES has progressed in football over the past four decades, the number of American players has grown dramatically, many of whom come from unique and interesting backgrounds. Amir Richardson is a prime example and his love for the sport comes from his father, former NBA great Michael “Sugar” Ray Richardson.
Richardson, 19, was born in Nice, France, while his father was finishing his basketball career in France. This season Richardson has started to make impressive strides in his footballing career where he locked his starting midfielder position with Le Havre, who are among six teams vying for promotion to French Ligue 1.
Like his father, Richardson is 6’5 ″. But unlike basketball, this places him among the tallest players in the game. This size has also given him a unique advantage by playing primarily as a defensive midfielder. He has become an important part of Le Havre’s success helping to be a disruptive defensive presence that can cover a lot of ground playing in front of the baseline.
“This is my first season as a starter,” Richardson told ASN with the help of his translating mother. “I have to keep working because that’s what I want and I want to stay on the pitch and keep this job. I actually liked to play everywhere in midfield, and I can play as No.6 or No.8 and I love to play defense. I played mostly as a No.6 but sometimes the coach pushes me further forward in the attack where I can carry the ball.
Indeed, a lot has happened very quickly for Richardson in 2021. He went from being a young player to starting a first team, he played for two different national teams and he found himself in the middle of an intense promotional race – little expected from Le Havre this season.
“We didn’t expect to be in the top five where we are now because we have so many young players,” said Richardson. “But now that we’re there, our big goal is to be promoted and evolve. “
That day, Richardson was joined by a visit from his father – who tries to make the trip to France once or twice a year. Back home in Oklahoma, he watches all of Amir’s games with Le Havre online.
This visit, however, is particularly significant as Michael Ray begins to watch Amir play not only as a youngster or academy player, but as a professional first team.
“This year has been a dream come true for me,” said Michael Ray Richardson. “Just to watch your son take these steps.” I remember when he was little and we played with the little sponge ball, we played between each door. He was kicking him and I was trying to block him. Now to see him make his dreams come true is amazing to me. I am so proud of him.
For longtime NBA fans, Michael Ray Richardson doesn’t need to be introduced. In 1978, after a distinguished career at the University of Montana, he was selected by the New York Knicks with the fourth overall pick – two picks ahead of Larry Bird. In his second season, Richardson became the third player in NBA history to lead the league in both assists and interceptions, setting Knicks records in both categories. Between 1980 and 1985, while playing for the Knicks, Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets, he was a four-time NBA star, was named twice in the NBA All Defensive First Team, led the league in interceptions three times, and led the league once in assists.
Of course, basketball and football are very different, but there are a lot of things that connect professional athletes in any sport. Characteristics such as a work ethic, competitive spirit, and the need to overcome adversity and setbacks are common to all sports at the highest level.
“What I’m trying to do is just instill a work ethic,” says Elder Richardson of how he works with his son as he progresses in his career. “Because if you work hard it will pay off. I just tell him to keep a cool head and work, and then everything else will fall into place because he’s really, really talented. He’s got an incredible talent… What I’m trying to explain to him too is that in professional sport anything can happen because a lot of times it’s out of your control. All you can do is do your job. If you do your job, the rest will take care of itself.
When asked if basketball had ever been in the cards for Amir, his father laughed. He quickly clarifies that his son loves basketball, but has chosen the right sport in football.
“He loves basketball,” Michael Ray Richardson said with a smile. “During the summer when I do my camps, he would come with me to Patterson, New Jersey or Florida and he loved it. I used to tell her, you’re good with your feet, not your hands. I told him he had big feet, but I got big hands [laughs]. »
As Amir continues to make ever greater strides in football, important decisions will be made, both at club and international level. At club level, his unique physical qualities and skills combined with his success at Le Havre could potentially attract transfer interest from bigger clubs.
Internationally, Amir received his first international call-up in October when he accepted an invitation to attend a camp with the Moroccan Under-23 team, for which he holds eligibility through his mother. . Then in November, he played with the France U-20 team for a week.
“They were both very good experiences, but the experience with Morocco was a bit short due to the quarantine requirements,” young Richardson said of recent orders. “I was only able to play for a few days. I was able to play all week with France and I enjoyed it. I got to meet the staff and play in a scrimmage match with Germany.
Of course, Richardson also holds a US passport through his father, but has not heard from US Soccer. He is comfortable with the France U-20 team and notes that his club are satisfied with the reduction in travel to play for France. While he was born in France, he was quick to point out that he was definitely not ruling out the United States if the opportunity presented itself.
“I’m open to anything,” Richardson said.
Richardson’s connection with the United States is not far off. He visited the country often growing up and still tries to survive in the United States when he can. But as he grew into a prominent young player, it became more difficult to come often or for long periods of time.
“When I was young I spent most of the time in France, but I would go back and forth to the States quite a bit and I would stay sometimes four or five weeks,” said Richardson. “I have always played in top French academies since I was 10 years old, so the summers were getting shorter, and I would have too many matches.
As for a possible national team pick, Michael Ray Richardson admitted that the decisions would be made by his son, but he hopes it is the United States.
“Of course I am! Of course, ”the father replied when asked if he hoped his son would play for the United States. “I’m an American and America can still use great soccer players. It would be a dream come true for me.