Durham event lets everyone try wheelchair basketball

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- On Friday night at the YMCA Cage Court in Downtown Durham, Bridge II Sports hosted an event letting able-bodied people and those with disabilities alike try out wheelchair basketball for free.

Twelve-year-old Sammy, who has spina bifida, was inspired by his favorite NBA player, LeBron James, to try out the sport.

"I feel like LeBron and I feel like a basketball player," he said.

When the doctors told Sammy's mother, Melanie Sykes, that her son had spina bifida, she never thought he'd be playing basketball.

Now 12 years later, he's sinking buckets.

"He wants to play like LeBron," Sykes said. "He's always loved basketball and it's just giving him the opportunity to actually do something that he enjoys."

EMBED More News Videos

Ball for All lets everyone experience wheelchair basketball.

Wheelchair basketball isn't as easy as you might think. It's a lot like regular basketball but you can only use two pushes for every dribble.

"It's really an exhilarating experience," said Akeem Hassell, who's been playing for 19 years. "It kept me out of a lot of trouble and gave me a lot of experiences traveling."

"I've been taking care of Akeem since he was a baby," said John Wiener, a urologist at Duke. "To watch him weave in and out, I'm just in awe watching him."

Hassell makes it his mission to get as many people involved in the sport as possible.

"I always try to recruit kids," he said. "I want them to have the love of wheelchair basketball like I do because it's really good for the quality of life and it's good to make friends. It also teaches you how to be independent and teaches you camaraderie."

"How could you not say yes, I want to be in it when Akeem's asking you to do it?" said Wiener. "He's just magnetic."

Bridge II Sports hopes this will encourage people to sign up for its annual wheelchair basketball tournament in August. Click here for more information.
Copyright © 2022 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.