The amazing growth of the Latin American community in the United States has not only entailed a significant demographic change, but also a transformation in that country’s economic, politic, cultural and sports spheres. Nowadays, we find numerous Latin American athletes that have become stars in the main U.S. professional leagues. Many of them have kept strong relations with their origins and that’s the reason why they support their compatriots in different ways, especially in the hardest times for those communities.
PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to the best moments in the career of five highly-influential Latino athletes in the United States.
SAUL “CANELO” ALVAREZ (MEXICO, BOXING)
This Mexican fighter is probably the most complete Latin American boxer at this moment. His record of 49 wins, 34 KOs and only one defeat (against Floyd Mayweather Jr.) speaks high of this 27-year-old pugilist’s quality, who has won world super welter titles given by three different organizations (WBC, WBA and WBO); moreover, he has been a world middle weight champion of WBC and The Ring. In 2017, “Canelo” easily defeated his compatriot Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and, during what was described as the fight of the year, he had no decision in his duel against Kazakh Gennady Golovkin.
MANU GINOBILI (ARGENTINA, BASKETBALL)
Manu Ginobili is an Argentinian professional basketball player who had a highly successful 16-year career in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs. Drafted by the Spurs in 1999 as the 57th overall pick, Ginobili did not start his NBA career until 2002 at the age of 25. However, he quickly made an impact and became a key contributor on a Spurs team that won four NBA championships in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.
Known for his energetic and unorthodox style of play, Ginobili provided a huge spark off the bench for the Spurs. He embraced the sixth man role and won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008. Ginobili made the All-NBA Third Team twice and was a two-time All-Star. He was also named to the All-NBA Rookie Second Team in 2003. Ginobili retired from the NBA in 2018 as one of the greatest international players to grace the league. His willingness to sacrifice for the team was a big part of the Spurs’ success and he is considered a San Antonio legend.
“He is something else. Whatever he drinks, I want it. There has to be a source of youth somewhere,” the Spurs coach, Gregg Popovich, said about Manu. The Argentinean’s career includes one Olympic title with the national team, in Athens Games back in 2004, bronze medal in Beijing 2008 and silver medal in Indianapolis World Championship, in 2002.
JOSE ALTUVE (VENEZUELA, BASEBALL)
The Venezuelan player was the best Latin American athlete in 2017. Over the past four seasons and for the third time, this “little giant” conquered the batting title in the American League and he played a key role with the Houston Astros to win the World Series. The list of recognitions received by this player is very impressive: MVP of his league, Hank Aaron award to the best batter of the championship and Person of the Year according to Sports Illustrated, along with J.J. Watts from the Texans, for the great support he provided to the victims in Houston after hurricane Harvey.
During six years playing in MLB, Altuve (one of the smallest ball players in the league, with barely 1.68 meters) has an average of .316, with 84 HRs and 403 RBIs.
AL HORFORD (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, BASKETBALL)
Dominican basketball star Al Horford has become one of the most prominent and impactful Latino athletes in the United States over his 15-year NBA career. As a five-time NBA All-Star with the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, Horford has established himself as one of the best power forwards of his generation. His success on the court has allowed him to emerge as an influential role model and inspiration for young Latinos aspiring to achieve greatness in sports.
Off the court, Horford has used his platform to give back to underprivileged communities in the Dominican Republic and the United States. He started the Al Horford Foundation which funds basketball programs, schools supplies, and youth education initiatives in both countries. As one of the few active Dominican players in the NBA, Horford strives to be a positive representative of his Latin heritage. His excellence on and off the court make Al Horford a trailblazing Latino sports figure who continues to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Latino youth.
CARLOS CORREA (PUERTO RICO, BASEBALL)
Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa has rapidly become one of baseball’s biggest Latino stars and most influential athletes since making his MLB debut with the Houston Astros in 2015. As the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, high expectations surrounded Correa from the outset. He has delivered by becoming one of the best all-around shortstops in the majors, winning the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year and the 2017 World Series title with the Astros.
Off the field, Correa has embraced his role as an inspiration to young Latino baseball fans. He is active in community outreach programs for Latino youth and often speaks about how much his Puerto Rican heritage means to him. As one of the most recognizable and marketable young Latino players in baseball, Correa is setting an outstanding example with his performance on the field and character off it. His emergence as a budding superstar makes him an ideal athlete to inspire the next generation of Latino baseball players for years to come.