A Black Basketball Player in Communist Poland: Interview with Kent Washington

June 1, 2022


Nicknamed “The Wizard of Harlem,” Kent Washington made history by becoming the first American to play professional basketball behind the Iron Curtain. The Wende’s Chief Curator and Director of Programming Joes Segal will speak with him about his experiences and his recently published memoir Kentomania: A Black Basketball Virtuoso in Communist Poland.

Kent Washington attended the New Rochelle Public Schools while cultivating his basketball talent. His high school basketball accolades rewarded him with a four-year scholarship to Southampton College. A basketball tour with his college to communist Poland in 1976 provided a unique opportunity. In January 1979, Kent committed to play 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.

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