Christopher “the Animal” Hyche was born in Jackson, Mississippi on September 16, 1988. His father Cornelius Payton worked as a housekeeper at the local fire academy and his mother Wendalon worked at Skytel, a telecommunications company. His parents met at the Mississippi School for the Deaf and went on to have six children. Chris also has three half siblings. The family communicated using both ASL and English in the household. In an interview with KODAheart, Chris reflected on his childhood in a deaf-hearing family, “It was actually normal for me growing up.” he shared. “My friends thought it was so cool I can speak with my hands but to me it was normal.”
His passion for athletics started early. Chris played sports from a young age, primarily football and basketball. Inspiration for these interests can be attributed to his family. Both his parents were athletes in high school: his dad played basketball, his mom was a cheerleader and ran track. Chris reflected that it was his dad’s love for basketball that pulled him into the sport, “I was drawn to basketball the most. My dad was always watching it on tv and even built me a hoop in the backyard.” By the time he entered Provine High School, his basketball abilities were on full display. He had a stellar career earning Dandy Dozen honors and becoming one of the top-150 players in the country. He was sought after by many D1 schools, including Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Virginia Tech, and the University of Wyoming. Ultimately Chris chose to go to Jackson State University because, “It was one of the schools that really wanted me and made a way for me.”
After two years at Jackson State an injury disrupted his playing status. Though he redshirted his junior year, he maintained his eligibility and gained him an additional year of eligibility to compete. After four years at Jackson State, Chris used his last year of eligibility to play at Talladega College. Following his final season at Talladega, he briefly joined the Jackson Showboats in the American Basketball Association (ABA), before he was recruited to play on a professional team in Mexico. Chris played professionally overseas in various countries including Morocco and Kosovo. In 2018, Chris joined the Harlem Globetrotters. According to Chris, “I was in Sacramento working out and a guy that used to coach the ‘Trotters was there and asked if I would be interested. He gave me a contact to reach out to and I waited a while to see how the market was overseas. I wasn’t getting calls that I wanted so I reached out to the ‘Trotters they flew me out for a workout and the rest is history.”
When asked about his favorite thing about being a Globetrotter Chris said, “Traveling the world, meeting new people, and putting smiles on kids’ faces. It’s a very rewarding feeling! The platform also gave me a chance to go speak to deaf and hard of hearing kids as well which was really dope to me because of my background.” Whether it has been his involvement at Mike Glenn’s Basketball Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing or his visits to Deaf schools including Mississippi and New York. Chris’s impact has been felt far and wide. As he looks back fondly on his travels around the world, he shares that his favorite place to play basketball has been Mexico, “They made me feel like family there.”
As he reflected his experience as a coda Chris stated, “I love being a CODA. It’s cool to be able to experience both worlds. Hearing and Deaf.” He recalled one of his favorite memories growing up was, “When I was in high school we had a game and one of the referees was deaf so I went over and told him that we would be doing a trick play lining up on the wrong end of the floor. The play worked and I ended up with a wide open dunk!”
To follow Chris’s current path check out his instagram (@kinghyche) and facebook.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.