26.07.2023 Events

Interview with Kent Washington—Former Professional Basketball Player

Release date: July 26, 2023

This interview is a part of the Polish and Flourish series—where we speak with inspiring individuals living in the US who are Polish, have Polish roots, or have lived in Poland and are deeply inspired by it.

Learn about how Kent Washington’s unique basketball playing style made him a celebrity and led to him be the first Black professional basketball player to play behind the Iron Curtain. He won the Polish Cup in 1983.

Watch the video here:


Kent Washington played professional basketball in the Polish People’s Republic from 1979-1983. He is the author of the 2021 memoir “Kentomania: A Black Basketball Virtuoso in Communist Poland.”

With a “won’t be denied” attitude, Kent Washington 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.

On January 4, 1979, Kent committed to playing professionally in Poland where he became the first Black 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, Kentomania: A Black Basketball Virtuoso in Communist Poland (2021), is fascinating as he gives readers an up-close look at communism, both athletically and culturally.

Read “I Felt Polish: A Chat with American Basketball Pro Kent Washington” interview with Kent Washington conducted by Marek Kępa for Culture.pl:

At the turn of the 1980s, Kent Washington became the first black American to play pro basketball in Poland. In this exclusive interview, this accomplished athlete tells Culture.pl why his time in Poland was ‘the greatest experience he ever had’, what the reactions of Polish fans were to him winning the 1983 Polish Cup and… how he ended up in the cult Polish comedy film ‘Teddy Bear’ (Miś) [watch for free at 35mm.online].

Kent Washington, photo: Kent Washington’s private archive. Source: Culture.pl
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