Our Esquina Person of the Year: Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Jaquez edges out Lionel Messi and Ronald Acuña Jr.
In a year full of Latino excellence in American sports, Jaime Jaquez shone brightest while defying stereotypes. He’s the rare Latino star in the NBA, a promising rookie with a gritty toughness on the court, matinee idol good looks and the intelligence to match as a graduate of UCLA.
Jaquez did it all in 2023, and that’s why the 2023 Pac-12 Basketball Player of the Year is Our Esquina’s Person of the Year.
There were several worthy candidates for Our Esquina’s Person of the Year in American sports. National League MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. had a record-setting year for the Atlanta Braves. Legendary Argentina captain Lionel Messi followed his World Cup victory with an MLS debut that surpassed the high expectations that Inter Miami had for him.
Notre Dame women’s basketball freshman phenom Hannah Hidalgo and U.S. women’s national soccer team prodigy Alyssa Thompson are two teens who will dominate their sports for years. Even girls basketball prodigy Aaliyah Chavez and North Shore, Texas, defensive back Devin Sanchez, two of the best juniors in the 2025 high school class, deserved consideration.
Heck, even Jacquez’s youngest sister Gabriela, a sophomore on UCLA’s women’s basketball team, is a deserving trailblazer worthy of recognition.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. starred beyond the court
Ultimately, though, Jaime Jaquez Jr. proved to be the most significant Latino trailblazer in American sports. He embodies the best traits in Mexican culture and the potential within our community.
The grandson of a Mexican native abuela and Mexican American abuelo is a great role model for Latino youths. He caught the nation’s attention as a sophomore while leading UCLA’s men’s basketball team to the 2021 Final Four.
He led the Bruins to solid NCAA Tournament runs again in 2022 and 2023. Then he earned his degree this spring.
“I think that would be a big steppingstone for people in my community,” Jaquez said of his NBA dreams. “Especially the Mexican community, to see a guy like me fulfill a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid, and just to inspire that next generation of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans that want to fulfill their passion, whether it be basketball or anything else.
“Just to be that beacon to say that, yeah, you can do it too.”
The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder was clearly blessed with God-given talent and athletic genes. Both of his parents, after all, played college basketball. Not every Mexican can aspire for basketball or athletic excellence, though.
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His commitment to his education, though, is something all Latino kids can follow. The way he plays the game is also commendable. Jaquez’s play on the court has always reflected the Mexican work ethic. Moreover, he has embraced his Mexican roots and represented Mexico on the international level.
Jaime Jaquez has proudly embraced his gente. He captivated Mexicans and Latinos far beyond the UCLA campus before he landed in Miami.
By returning for his senior season, he showed the importance of education. He proudly talked about his Mexican roots throughout his senior season and during his last NCAA Tournament with the Bruins.
The 18th overall pick in the NBA draft is averaging 13.8 points per game over his first 31 games. He’s arguably been one of the top three rookies in the NBA this year.
Latinos have a rich history of dominating in Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball. Latinos have also distinguished themselves in the NBA in the past. Dominican American Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves was the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The three-time All-Star and 2015-2016 NBA Rookie of the Year is one of the best centers in the NBA.
This year, though, Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been the most significant Latino trailblazer in American sports.
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