Wheelchair Basketball Tournament Draws 8 Regional Teams To Alameda Gym

by John Ramos

ALAMEDA (KPIX) — In a Coast Guard gymnasium in Alameda, a basketball tournament was held where players had a lot more to overcome than just numbers on a scoreboard.

Their sport is wheelchair basketball — a sort of NASCAR version of the game — where no one ever stays in his own lane.

“This is like purposeful bumping into each other every single second. It’s bumper-car basketball, is what it is,” as contestant Paul Herzlich described it.

The Bay Area Outreach and Recreational Program, aka BORP, hosted eight club-level teams from Northern California and Nevada in the competition.

“One of the things that the players get out of it isn’t just playing the sport — they get a community of people who are in the same situation,” explained Jonathon Newman, BORP’s adult sports coordinator.

Anyone looking for sympathy here has come to the wrong gymnasium.

The games are fiercely competitive. Player/coach Tony Lai was ejected for giving the ref a little too much grief, a la Draymond Green. And, if someone takes a fall, no one from the sidelines runs in to help. That’s just not how they roll here.

“You gotta flip yourself over, push yourself up. Maybe someone will help you at some point, but yeah, you gotta get yourself up … there’s definitely some pride here,” Herzlich said.

These are men and women who refuse to be defined by what they can’t do.

And their success continues off the court. While nearly three-quarters of disabled Americans are unemployed, 80 percent of BORP clients go to college and have a job.

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