It is a melancholy colossus who welcomes us, Wednesday, June 17 in the morning, in a residential building near the Saint-Louis cathedral, in Blois. Before flying to the United States for the summer break, Tyren Johnson will once again celebrate his team’s triumph, this time at the Château de Chambord, in the presence of elected officials and sponsors: “It’s really new for me to celebrate a win. I was MVP [best player of the season] twice and I didn’t show off the trophy because I was too ashamed to stay in Pro B.”
After being rejected in 2018 because of a non-compliant training center and then stopped by the Covid-19 two years later when it was at the top of the Pro B championship, the Abeille des Aydes (ADA) Blois Basket won his ticket for the Betclic Elite (the first basketball division) on Saturday June 11 in the playoffs against Antibes. Largely thanks to Tyren Johnson and his legendary shots.
“I don’t know of any American who was at a Pro B club for five years. The months he wasn’t there because of a knee injury, we were really tough, struggling. He is a man who is both essential and very endearing, confides Paul Seignolle, the president of ADA Blois Basket, who does not know if Tyren Johnson, 33, will return. But my wish is that he stays. »
Tyren Johnson grew up in Vacherie, a small town in Louisiana on the banks of the Mississippi. His mother raised him alone along with his eight siblings. As an adult, he became closer to his father, a Vietnam veteran. “He made a cleaning man. Now he essentially lives off federal aid. Vacherie is one of the poorest places in the United States. It had three slave plantations. Today, the locals have retained a slave mentality, passed down from previous generations. They stay here and accept their fate, the poverty, the violence… It’s the jungle out there, man,” he says. Shootings against the backdrop of settling scores are commonplace.
Addressing Young Black Americans
In his spare time, Tyren Johnson is a graphic designer and creator of “instruments” (instrumental part) for hip-hop artists who solicit him through his merchant site. He is also an avid YouTuber. His channel is filled with videos that he films in the morning and edits until late at night to tell, in English, his daily life as a basketball player abroad. He distills lessons of personal development there, in the form of Morning Walks, morning walks in car parks in charmless commercial areas, near the motel in the city where the ADA Blois Basket is to play.
“In my community, they’re surprised that I’m walking around safely, iPhone at arm’s length, in a place I don’t know,” he says. On one of them, Tyren Johnson films himself on a walk in Paris, on his thirty-one, going to Gumbo Yaya, a restaurant serving fried chicken and waffles that remind him of the flavors of his Louisiana.
Tyren Johnson is aimed primarily at young black Americans with limited horizons. And by extension to all basketball fans who doubt their abilities: “I’ve always been talented. I never doubted my life because I was rich very early. At 11, mowing lawns, cleaning up to fifteen cars a day at $20 each, I could make $2,000 a month. It’s when people think I’m not strong enough that I feel like a failure. »
Yaya, his Belgian-Togolese wife, met during a previous contract in Aalst, in Flanders, is his mainstay. “It is with her that he finds balance and stability”, recognizes Paul Seignolle, the president of the club. Tyren Johnson confides: “When you live in another country, you realize who cares about you. In my case, in twelve years of professional basketball abroad, no one from my family has ever come to see me, even though I offered to pay for the trip. Only a friend made the effort and he was a drug dealer… In fact, it breaks me. »
“Become a Full Time Coach”
He fears his summer return to the country. “I bought a house in Houston, Texas, because as soon as I come home to Louisiana, people come asking me for money. All. Of course, with good heart, I offered uniforms for school, complete outfits for the local football team, but there, I am almost afraid to answer when they say hello to me. The last time, an old high school friend, after a few seconds, asked me for 600 dollars to buy a plane ticket. At home, I am asked to give. Elsewhere, I am asked to teach. »
Tyren Johnson refers in particular to these lucrative basketball camps for American teenagers, in which he attends each summer. To his YouTube subscribers, he simmers scholarly videos in which he analyzes in detail the game of NBA stars. “It’s an investment. With this job, I want to prove that I will one day be able to become a full-time coach. »
In the meantime, the coach of ADA Blois Basket, Mickaël Hay, intends to give the player a new dimension, perhaps not up to the ambitions of the person concerned: “If he stays, he will have a primordial role by compared to the foreign contingent that will arrive. He knows the club perfectly and will have a role of facilitator, on and off the pitch. But he will have less playing time, ”warns the Blois coach.