NBA Honors Military, Celebrates Veterans Day with Wheelchair Basketball Game
BETHESDA, Md. — One of the most invaluable facets of basketball — and sports in general — is its ability to bring people together, no matter the circumstance, no matter the situation.
On Wednesday, basketball did just that.
In recognition of Warrior Care Month and as an early celebration for Veterans Day, the NBA sponsored a wheelchair basketball game at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center — one of the nation’s largest and most renowned military hospitals in the country.
Two teams, made up of both active and injured service members, geared up for a 40-minute, full-court game that had no shortage of competitive spirit.
“It’s been a little bit different now, the transition getting into a wheelchair, but it’s been a lot of fun and keeps me competitive,” Army Sgt. Chris McGinnis, who stole the show by commanding fastbreaks and knocking down transition three-pointers, told USA TODAY Sports.
“Getting back out here with my battle buddies and still being around the game definitely helps my mental game too. Just continuing my progress healing — healing is definitely the big thing that we want to do while we’re here — so it helps with that for sure.”
The event, which was hosted by the Warrior Transition Brigade — an Army unit that provides personalized support for wounded, ill and injured soldiers — was yet another example of the NBA’s continued involvement with the military through its Commitment to Service program during its annual Hoops for Troops Week (Nov. 4-12).
“The degree to which (the NBA has) stretched it beyond just a recognition and celebration of military service into programs and initiatives that both try to develop youth in America, not just with basketball skills but also with values, and one of those values is an appreciation for the role of the military in democratic society,” retired Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said in a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports.
Other programs and initiatives that took place during the week included:
- Indiana Pacers’ CJ Miles joined volunteers to prepare 500 care packages to be sent to troops from Indiana, stationed both domestically and abroad.
- A handful of teams held in-arena military appreciation nights and hosted family members from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
- Players wore Hoops for Troops shooting shirts and socks to honor members of the military.
- The Milwaukee Bucks held a Battle of the Badges full-court basketball game at their home arena, the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
- Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem bought season tickets for the family of a fallen service member.
But despite the NBA continuing to lay the groundwork for professional sports league/military relations, Dempsey — who recently retired after 41 years of military service and now serves a special adviser to NBA commissioner Adam Silver — says there’s always room for improvement.
“I’m never satisfied with where we are,” Dempsey said. “I’m never satisfied where we are in the military, I’m never satisfied where we are in our relationship with the NBA, and I actually sense very strongly that commissioner Silver feels the same way about the league. He’s always trying to understand what’s going well, what’s not going well, where can we learn, where can we reinforce success, and where can we adapt to make ourselves even better.”
“When this week rolls around it’s a great source of pride for me that I’ve been able to become part of it,” Dempsey continued. “But I’m always asking myself and others … how do we stay better connected with America? It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s one of those times in our history where we really need to find ways in our society to pull ourselves together, not pull ourselves apart.”
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