NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As athletes from across the world are preparing for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, some athletes with disabilities held their own competition at a cultural hub of basketball in New York.
You can always return home, even if your home is a basketball mecca.READ MORE: R. Kelly Found Guilty Of All Counts In Sex Trafficking, Racketeering Trial
“I cried when I was on the bus. I shed a tear. Because it brought back memories of what this meant to me, to be home and represent my city,” Special Forces Command Sgt. Major Roy Wilkins told CBS2’s Steve Overmyer.
“A whole lotta shoes been on this court,” he said. “With steel rims, you know, chain nets. When your fingers get caught up in the nets.”
Fifty years later, he’s returned to Rucker for the 40th National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Wilkins lost his legs on a tour in Afghanistan. The excitement of playing on the legendary court stirs the competitive juices.
“They got a saying, ‘I’m gonna tear you up.’ But I tell them, ‘I’m gonna drop them 901s.’ These 901 [elbows],” he said.READ MORE: COVID Vaccine Mandate For New York City Teachers To Take Effect After Federal Appeals Court Lifts Temporary Ban
Wheelchair basketball can be physical, but the benefits are more mental.
“There’s so much healing that goes on through sports. I think sports is something that has been a powerful part of many of these veterans’ lives before they were injured, and now it’s a part of their lives after injury in a different way,” said Leif Nelson, director of VA Adaptive Sports and Arts.
Wheelchair basketball was invented by veterans after World War II. It’s the grandfather of the Paralympic Games, and now, more than 100,000 vets play as a way to participate in life.
“What you’re seeing here is just men and women living their life, right? Like, these folks are healthy. They’re just living with a disability,” Nelson said.
Even though no championships were won Friday, victories come in all forms.
“It’s about vets coming together for one. Two, it’s the camaraderie … If you’ve been in the military, you know what I mean when I say camaraderie,” said Robert Jones, of Far Rockaway.MORE NEWS: Parents Of Immunocompromised Girl Say Long Island School District Refused Requests For Adequate Remote Option
Allowing for healing beyond the injury and leaving them hungry for their next game.