On Playing Pro Basketball in Argentina, an Interview with Chris Jeffries

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Jeffries Obras SanitariasDining at a 24-hour McDonald’s in Buenos Aires’ wealthy section of Nunez, you’d think Chris Jeffries would stick out like a sore thumb. He does, but no more than the two or 3 other 6’+ tall athletes headed for the brightly lit golden arches on Avenida Libertador. Jeffries’ basketball team, Obras Sanitarias de Nunez, just won their 3rd straight home game, and on his way back from the stadium, the 27-year-old small forward from Texas stopped in for a victory burger and some fries.

“You’ve got to order everything modified, or else they’ll give you the sandwich that’s been sitting there since last week,” said Jeffries, as he made his way through the packed restaurant to find an open table. With a stat sheet in one hand, big mac in the other, Jeffries sat down to talk to me about what it’s like to play professional basketball in a foreign country, and what his plans are for the future.

Obras had defeated Ben Hur, Jeffries’ former Argentine squad, and secured a tie for second place in the first division. “That’s (Ben Hur’s former coach) the guy that cut me, told me I couldn’t play ball, couldn’t shoot the three, and would never make it in this league”, said Jeffries gleefully as he showed me his stats. The stat sheet on Jeffries read 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists. But the star of the night was Lazarro Borrell, the 37-year-old power forward from Cuba who played for the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics in 2000-2001. In fact, that night there were a total of 9 foreign players in the game between both teams.

Chris Jeffries CollegeBasketball is not a new phenomenon in Argentina. Though only recognized recently by the casual fan, the South American nation has never finished lower than 12th in FIBA international tournaments, and won the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, beating out the perennial favorite “Dream Team” of the United States. League basketball in Argentina is also a big deal. While it lacks the rabid fervor of soccer, Argentina’s 1st division, or Liga Nacional de Basquet (LNB) has produced a handful of NBA stars, as well as giving foreign players a chance to compete professionally on a high level.

For Jeffries, a Dallas, TX native, being a foreigner is nothing new. Since he graduated college in 2003 he has played for 9 teams in 8 countries. While in high school and college, Jeffries, in his words “kept it low key.” He quietly became a star at Washington University of St. Louis, a top-tier academic institution where he majored in Mathematics.

Though basketball was always his passion, academics were always of equal, if not greater importance. In a collegiate sports climate where cheating and illegal payoffs are rampant, Jeffries embodies the exception to the rule. Washington University, much like the Ivy League schools, hands out no athletic scholarships, and the basketball team at one time boasted a starting lineup comprised of 2 high school valedictorians.

Chris Jeffries Obras Sanitarias Buenos Aires ArgentinaJeffries’ professional career began almost accidentally. “I got a phone call from a guy with a thick Irish accent.” Jeffries said, “I couldn’t understand what he was saying, so I hung up on him. I thought it was a joke until he called back, and I could make out my name. He told me he wanted me to play ball for him.” The man on the phone was the head coach of the Limerick Lions, an Irish professional team.

After that phone call, Jeffries’ professional career turned into a whirlwind global tour that took him to Ireland, Uruguay, Switzerland, Spain, Chile, Venezuela, and now Argentina. “If I’m playing, and playing well,” said Jeffries, “I want to go to the best team possible.” And so far, he has. In Chile his team won the national championship. In Uruguay, he lead the league in scoring, and in Venezuela, he lead the league in both scoring and field goal percentage.

Chris Jeffries VenezuelaNow in In Buenos Aires, Jeffries is trying to make a name for himself and play on the top level of the LNB. But what about the NBA? It’s hard not to recognize the glaring differences between the riches and fame of the US pros and those of the Argentine league. An elite player in the LNB ears around $5,000-$8,000 USD per month, which is a substantial salary in Argentina. An elite NBA player, on the other hand, typically earns between $10,000,000-$20,000,000 USD annually, as well as receiving endorsement money and merchandising royalties.

According to Jeffries,”If the NBA thing doesn’t work out, it’s fine with me. I’ll just keep on playing as best as I can. That’s all I can do. I mean think about it,” he said as he looked around the crowded McDonalds, “I’ve had the chance to travel the world, get paid for it, and learn two (Spanish, French) new languages. To me that’s amazing.”

The LNB is currently on a 2-week mid-season break, and Jeffries’ next assignment is the slam dunk competition in the All-Star game, held in Mar del Plata, Argentina. “I’m going all-disco for this one,” he said as he showed me his knee-high socks, “the afro’s going to make a comeback.”
Since the time of the interview, Obras Sanitarias has slipped to 3rd place in the standing, trailing Buenos Aires’ Boca Juniors by a narrow margin. The league resumes regular play on February 4, 2008.


[…] Andrew Jackson wrote a fantastic post today on “On Playing Pro Basketball in Argentina, an Interview with Chris …”Here’s ONLY a quick extractJeffries’ basketball team, Obras Sanitarias de Nunez, just won their 3rd straight home game, and on his way back from the stadium, the 27-year-old small forward from Texas stopped in for a victory burger and some fries. … […]

[…] Chris Jeffries, a US citizen playing professional basketball in Argentina. Jeffries says, “I’ve had the chance to travel the world, get paid for it, and learn two (Spanish, French) new lang…“ Share […]

eduardo ávila on January 28, 08

Great story. There is a site called Latinbasket.com that lists all of the foreigners playing in Latin America. It’s interesting to see former college basketball stars playing in random teams in these countries.

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Kellie on March 6, 09

i’m a female basketball player from Australia. coming to Buenos Aires this month to stay for a few months.

i was wondering if you might know anything about local basketball leagues in BA that i might be able to become involved with.


Emily Anne Epstein on March 10, 09

Hey Kellie,

Not sure of any off the top of my head, but maybe a post on Craigslist would be a good way to find link minded folks! Good luck.


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