Fans of the National Basketball League have their own heroes and icons. These include Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Steve Nash, to name only a few superstars of the sport. Wheelchair basketball fans also know the stars of their sport, and one paralympic athlete rises above almost all others in the sport. Pat Anderson is often called the Michael Jordan of wheelchair basketball, and with good reason: he’s been capturing gold for Team Canada since the 2000 Paralympics. Anderson is back on the court to inspire a new generation of fans at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Pat Anderson may be best known for his rise to Olympic stardom, but his love of wheelchair basketball goes all the way back to growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Anderson claims that half his heroes are NBA stars and the other half are inspirational wheelchair athletes. In a time when equal opportunity for disabled athletes still remains a work in progress, he has himself become one of those inspirational stars. Earning gold at the 2000, 2004 and 2012 Paralympic Games and silver at the 2008 games left Anderson feeling he was going out on a high note when he retired in 2016.
Retirement didn’t last long. Anderson soon found his way to the court to assist with training a new generation of wheelchair athletes. His “Michael Jordan” star status came with him, and players learned the techniques that made Anderson a powerhouse at world championships and the Olympics alike. Anderson wasn’t entirely comfortable on the sidelines, however, and following the 2016 Paralympics, he decided it was time to hit the court again. Growing your love into a career takes exceptional dedication, and Anderson isn’t ready to give that up.
Back in the Game
Anderson most recently starred in the 2018 run to the World Challenge Cup of wheelchair basketball. A 64-53 loss this month to a well-oiled Japanese team kept Team Canada from running away with the event, but he’s found the inspiration he needs to go for the gold in 2020. Anderson is taking on the role of guiding other athletes, some with ratings below his (he’s ranked a 4.5 on the disability scale for wheelchair basketball, the highest designation, and a team may only have players totaling 14 points in play at any time). He teaches by example now as a player and companion to others as they grow.
2020 and Beyond
Wheelchair basketball is a life-changing sport for a great many of its players. Anderson feels his time is still here and he belongs on the court. Many young fans look to him now for inspiration at games and on Twitter as an example of a hero with whom they can identify. Fans can continue to watch him in the 2020 Paralympic Games and at major events worldwide for years to come.
Image credit: https://www.paralympic.org