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Barbadian rap and basketball star targets Panam Esports Championships glory

Keoma Mallett knows the unique pride of pulling on the shirt of an international sports team: as a teenager, he represented his homeland of Barbados in junior basketball

“I played one international tournament – I remember getting the colors, I was extremely happy,” he says.

“It was a proud thing to do and I committed to it. I was really good. But then I got injured when I was 17, and I needed to find a new direction.”

Bursting with energy and ideas, Keoma found fresh outlets in the worlds of hip-hop and esports. On the open mic scene, he became known across the island for his rapping and brilliantly curated events.

Playing eFootball, meanwhile, he is about to become Barbados’ first-ever international representative at a major esports tournament.

“I’m one of the few known players here, there isn’t anyone who plays as much as I do, so when I was approached by the Barbados Esports Initiative to come to the Pan American Esports Championships at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, I was very interested,” he says.

“This will be the second time I’ve represented Barbados, but in a different sport, so that’s something very special.

“When I realized I’d be playing for my country again, that we would be marching in the ceremony with the other athletes, I was overwhelmed with joy. To have that international shirt, and to be the first official person, in a major event like #PEC23, is amazing.

“For me, it comes with great responsibility. You have to set a standard. I feel nervous, but excited, and motivated to do my country proud.”

“You have to have sheer determination”

Coming from a background of elite sports, Keoma knows what it will take to succeed in Santiago 2023.

“To get good at anything, you need to practice a lot – I learned that from basketball,” he says.

“Esports is no different. Our basketball team had a lot of potential. We got to a lot of semi-finals, but not all the way. What I learned from basketball is that to win you have to have sheer determination.

“You need the attitude that every game is winnable. If someone scores three times in 20 minutes, you need to know that it is possible for you to do the same.

“In eFootball, having a positive mindset is very important. You need to be adaptable, too. You play the game one way, but someone might counter that, so you need to change – in the formation, in tactics, and in mindset.

“Adaptability, determination, and positivity are important. You need to be smart.

“What I learned playing basketball is that win or lose, you have to make it difficult for your opponent, make them remember you. Give them a tough time. That’s what I’ll take to Chile.

“I’d like to finish in the top eight, and I’d like to win. Most of all, I will give it everything.”

“Treat everything like an audition”

Keoma is renowned for putting on open-mic rap battles across his homeland – and he is also bringing lessons from hip-hop to #PEC23 with him.

“I am a freestyle rapper, and we had a performance to celebrate me going away. People have shown a lot of support and it fills my heart with joy,” he says.

“I’m very prominent on the open-mic scene, I mentor people, I’m well-loved in that arena. People appreciate what I do. I have freestyled on a few records.

“But what it teaches me is that whenever you do anything – treat it as an audition. You never know who will be watching.

As a rapper, Eminem was beaten in the competition that got him his record deal. But he gave it everything, and Dr Dre was told about him.

You always need to do your best. In hip-hop, in sports, in esports, if you do that, someone might reach out to you. Play like a champion, even if you don’t become a champion.

“When I come back from Chile, I know I will have given it my all. And if the opportunity presents itself, I will definitely be rapping in Santiago!”


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