Wizards’ Jaime Echenique was treated to hero’s welcome in his native Colombia

LAS VEGAS — Jaime Echenique thought he could go unnoticed. Even though he is 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds, he could wear a COVID mask. At least they wouldn’t be able to see his face.

But it was a futile effort, as the Wizards big man estimates 25 reporters were waiting for his arrival. Once they spotted him, his cover was blown.

“It was impossible. As soon as I landed, everybody knew and the whole airport was stopped for a second because they knew I was there,” Echenique told NBC Sports Washington.

Echenique had returned to Colombia, the country he made history for just a few months earlier as its first NBA player. That memorable December night, which was highlighted by a teary postgame press conference, was fresh on the minds of those back home.

Echenique had done his best to move past it, instead focusing on his ultimate goal of finding longevity in the NBA. He said before his NBA debut and after that it was just one step along the way towards what he hopes is a long and successful career at basketball’s highest level.

But that moment in the airport helped remind him to stop and soak it all in. 

“I have the bad habit of maybe I don’t appreciate what is happening. I have this vision like this is nothing for me. But I [also] see it as my reality and all the people seeing it as…

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