‘Serious on the court, friends off’: Players say wheelchair basketball gives workout, community

Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 10:52 PM PST
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BEAVERTON Ore. (KPTV) - It was the Blazers and Warriors live on two wheels in Beaverton. The Sonics were there too.

This was Dale Blem’s third season with the Wheel Blazers.

“It’s an awesome opportunity to get together, keep being active, support each other and we really have a tight group and it’s really fun to see success on the court as well,” Blem said.

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The Weekend Warriors hit the courts at the YMCA for the two-day Bridge City classic, hosted by Adaptive Sports Northwest. This was their first tournament since 2019.

Chuck Berry joined the Wheel Blazers in 2020.

“My first Bridge City Classic, first year playing with the Wheel Blazers,” Berry said.

Double teams, screens and playing through plenty of contact with wheelchair basketball teams from Oakland, Seattle, Spokane and the famed Portland Wheel Blazers.

Walt Jones is on his 10th season with the Wheel Blazers.

“Serious on the court, friends off,” Jones said.

Blem added, “That’s an awesome thing about the disability sports community, is it is competitive and then we get to be friendly about it too. We run into each other multiple times a season so it’s cool to have that dynamic.”

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Berry said the game is hard work.

“You have the chair which is a big part of your body and for them to come and block you, you’ll see how they pick us up and make us work,” Berry said. “You have to get up and down the court.”

Blem said he loves how the game gets his heart rate up and gives him a chance to break a sweat.

“Basketball is always something I did before I was in a chair, and I missed it since I was in a chair, and then getting to find it again and getting to rediscover it in different ways has been super fulfilling,” Blem said.

Barry said he was going to keep playing until he couldn’t anymore.

“I enjoy it - I love playing basketball,” Berry said. “My doctor told me my shoulders were done back when I was in my 30s and he told me I had the shoulders of a 57-year-old man and told me I needed to stop playing basketball. I’m 60 now, still going.” He smiled. “Hey, live by the glass, die by the glass.”