Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive June 2017 Show 1724 Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair Basketball

Being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop these competitive athletes from playing basketball.
Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair Basketball

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Tulsa Rollin Roustabouts

Show Details

Show 1724: Wheelchair Basketball
Air Date: June 11, 2017



Rob McClendon: Well, begun after World War II, wheelchair basketball was designed to help returning veterans suffering from paralysis. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart and one that teaches lessons on and off the court.

Rob McClendon: For Tulsa’s Rollin’ Roustabouts, wheeling down the court is not for the faint of heart.

Brock Battles: It’s a lot more aggressive than people think. I always tell people if they’ve never seen it before, you kind of describe it like bumper cars, NASCAR and basketball combined into one.

Rob: And while they may be in wheelchairs, there’s nothing sedentary about their game.

Anthony Meadows: As you see, some players are more physical than others. We actually like being knocked out of the chair sometimes. It gives you a jolt. A lot of people will say that we might be a little bit of adrenaline junkies, but sometimes that’s what you need to get you up and down the court on a regular basis, consistently moving as quickly as possible.

Rob: Paralyzed at 19 by a bullet when he says he brought fists to a gun fight, Anthony Meadows says his injury is probably the best thing that ever happened to him.

Meadows: Like I tell the kids when I talk to ’em I always let them know that this was a blessing in disguise when it happened to me, ’cause when I was walking I was arrogant. Everything was about me. I felt like everybody owed me something. Once I got in the chair, it made me, it forced me to be humble and actually open my world to people that I would not have opened my world to had I not been paralyzed. But wheelchair basketball, it just basically opened my eyes and let me know there is a bigger world out there than what little problems I had going on.

Larry Salyer: There’s nobody on our team that was born when I started playing wheelchair basketball.

Rob: Meet Larry Salyer, better known by his teammates as Papa Smurf.

Salyer: You can see by the games today that it’s very, very competitive. And again, a lot of people think that, “Well, isn’t that precious? People want to play basketball in wheelchairs. That’s just great.” Over the years there’s been a few players that come out like that, thinking that, and then they go to one practice and they go, “No, that’s too rough. You know, I’m gonna get hurt doing that.” Well, you do, sometimes you do get hurt.

Keelie Battles: The more involved games, they’re intense. You get, you get all caught up. You’re on the edge of your seat. The hardest part is watching like, Brock, my husband, fall. You’re like, your heart jumps in your chest ’cause you’re scared they’re gonna hurt themselves. I like watching people that on a normal basis can’t get involved in a major sport, get involved and be competitive and do things that people think they can’t do. I mean, you see someone in a wheelchair, and if you’re not used to being around ’em you’re like, “Oh, my gosh! How can they maneuver like that? How can they move that quickly? How in the heck to the get back up after falling down?” Getting to see people do that, it’s, it’s great.

Rob: Routinely ranked in the top 20 nationally, the Tulsa Rollin’ Roustabouts are as competitive as they come, but realize their game is not just about winning.

Meadows: With basketball, it’s just one of those things to where you can see somebody start from point A, and you can see them go all the way to Z, where when he first came out, he couldn’t even hold himself up in the chair. But after a couple of months, you see ’em start to get a more authoritative, and they get more of accomplishments of what they’re doin’. And they feel a sense of community and with that sense of community, makes them become better at being a person in a wheelchair, a person with a disability.

Rob: An attitude that’s changed Michael Thompkins life both on and off the court.

Michael Thompkins: I got injured when I was 12, so, and I started playing when I was 16. But I’ve always loved basketball. I played in sixth grade and stuff and just always loved it, so initially I thought that it was, you know, that kind of my dream of playing basketball was gonna be over. But once, uh, Larry approached me, and I was kind of hesitant ’cause I thought it was, you know, this seems kind of different.

Salyer: Michael, whose dad coaches the team, I tried for four years probably to get him to come out and try wheelchair basketball. He said, “Yeah, I’ll try it sometime.” Couple of years later I seen him and his dad again and tried again. “Yeah, I’ll come out sometime.” Never showed up. One day his mom called me at work and said, “Hey, Michael is gonna come out to basketball practice and give it a try tonight,” and I said, “OK, good.”

Thompkins: It was actually kind of funny because I had told my dad, I was like, “Let’s pretend that we have, that I have something to do.” Like, “Let’s pretend I have a meeting. That way I can only stay for like 10 minutes and I say, ‘OK, I’ve gotta go now.’”

Salyer: Well, Michael had already made his mind up, he wasn’t gonna, he wasn’t gonna like it. Cause when he came in the door for my benefit that night he said, turned to his dad and said, “Don’t” -- it’s like 6:30 -- “Don’t forget we’ve got to leave at 7 to be at that meeting.” So, OK, so you’re not really wanting to put an effort into this, and so we started doing layups. He got hooked when we were doing layup drills.

Thompkins: After I started playing, I was like, uh, I told my dad, I was like, “OK, Dad, you can go ahead and do our meeting without me. I’ll catch up next time.” And then I ended up staying the whole practice and coming back out.

Salyer: He didn’t make his meeting. And before the night was over he goes, “What do I got to do to join the team?”

Thompkins: I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think I was gonna enjoy it, but I, you know, I love it.

Salyer: He’s worked his rear off, and he’s developed into one of the top players around. He is an awesome player.

Rob: With a never-quit determination that everyone on this team shares.

Salyer: Well, hey, life ain’t over. There’s still basketball, there’s tennis, there’s all kinds of stuff out there – may slow it down, you’ll find a different way of doing it.