There’s a reason they say that in 49 states it’s just basketball, but in Indiana it’s a way of life. Growing up in Indiana, I was born into basketball. I’ve played since I could stand, but I was the only person I knew playing basketball as an amputee.
I lost my leg on a beautiful Midwestern summer day. My brother and I snuck out of our house to “play guns” with a neighbor, and we found some guns that were not locked up at his house. My neighbor was toying with a 12-gauge shotgun, and I happened to be standing in front of it when it went off. I was 4 years old; he was 6.
That day could have changed my life forever if it had prevented me from playing sports, but instead it motivated me to compete. I was fortunate to have a tight-knit community that never treated me any differently, never gave me a head start, and never let me make excuses.
I spent most evenings shooting hoops behind my grandparents’ house or at Dunkirk City Park.
When I finished my undergraduate degree at Indiana University, I moved to Arizona looking for a way to continue my education and to keep playing.
I discovered the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center on a class tour of the facility. I walked around in awe. I learned that amputee members met Wednesday nights to play ball. I had to check it out, even though I had never played basketball with another amputee.
I introduced myself to the other players the following Wednesday and fell in love with the adaptive sport. I became friends with David Banks, a fellow amputee who helped bring the sport to Ability360 along with the general manager, Gus LaZear.
Banks, like me, preferred standing up to play basketball—not because wheelchair basketball is boring but because playing in a wheelchair is more difficult for me because of never having to use one. We organized the inaugural Cactus Classic, a three-on-three tournament for amputees, in June 2015.
Six teams signed up
to compete, and it was a rush to see 18 amputees playing basketball under one roof. The success led us to add stand-up amputee basketball to the Duel in the Desert, a showcase of adaptive sports that includes wheelchair basketball, wheelchair lacrosse, power soccer, and quad rugby.
During that tournament I met the AMP1 stand-up basketball team, a group that travels the country speaking to groups with a mission to motivate, educate, and inspire everyone they meet. They asked me to join the team, and I was proud to become a member.
Since then, I have worked with Ability360 and AMP1 to promote the sport of amputee basketball.
Discovering other amputees who play adaptive sports has opened up a new world for me. Check out adaptive sports for yourself; you might just fall in love too.