This was the first time I asked about basketball or any type of other sport pertaining to amputees. The only way an amputee can be competitive and play basketball, I was told, was by playing wheelchair basketball. I asked if there was any type of stand-up basketball around. I was told there was no such thing and a variety of excuses poured my way:
It would be too hard to start up.
Not enough amputees would play.
It was too hard for amputees to play.
Excuse after excuse, it felt like. The next few months it really bothered me that there was no such thing as stand-up basketball among amputees. By this time, I was back playing basketball at my house standing up. Every time I practiced on my own, the passion and drive to want to make stand-up basketball with amputees a reality became greater. It even got to the point to where it was all I thought about.
You have to realize this: I dreamed about having our own stand-up amputee basketball league just like the NBA and all that comes with it.
I felt deep down in my heart at the age of 18 that this is what I was destined to do. This was why I got cancer and became an amputee… to start this movement.
So around 18 or 19, I printed up about 1,000 flyers and mailed them off all over the country to famous people like Oprah, Mark Cuban, NBA teams, big-time news stations and talk shows, and anyone I could think of that would help me get the word out to help people become familiar with my vision. I only got one reply back, and that was from a marketing guy with the NBA who directed me to wheelchair basketball…
I felt frustrated. For years this continued. I tried pitching my idea to anyone and everyone I knew… but kept running into walls or non-believers.
Finally, about three years ago, I decided if people weren’t hearing about this then they would have to see it to believe it. It was at this point that I put up a camera in my backyard and video taped myself playing basketball. I posted the video on YouTube, and it seemed like instantly I got a message from another amputee in Utah who wanted me to contact him asap. His name was Tyler Hyatt and we talked on the phone for two hours the first time we spoke. We had the same goals and dreams.
Months later we decided to basically do this on our own. We created and founded Amp 1 Stand Up Amputee Basketball. I continued to get messages on YouTube from other amputees who were interested in playing. I know there were a handful of amputees who wanted to play just like I dreamed about for all these years—the big hurdle now was that we were spread out all over the country.
I felt that if we did what we could on our own and sacrificed, it would all pay off one day.
We entered into a small three-on-three tournament in Elgin, TX in March of 2009, all five of us paying our own travel expenses and our own lodging. I picked everyone up at the airport and we all drove down to Elgin to play in the tournament. We stayed at a small roach-like motel and it was not a big tournament at all. There were only about six teams that showed up and no one really came out to watch. We ended up taking second and third in the tournament but we took it as somewhere to start and begin. It was tough because we were wondering if things would happen for us and if we would get the recognition that we were working for and felt we deserved. No one knew about us or who we were, but we all felt we had a strong message to spread all over the world.