When he started playing wheelchair basketball, they called Patrick Anderson the Michael Jordan of his game.
By mid career, that label changed to the LeBron James of the wheelchair sport. He’s back with the team at the Pan Am Games, trying to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics this July… so do we call him the Kawhi Leonard of his sport now?
Anastasia Bucsis, host of the Player’s Own Voice podcast, asks Anderson about the burden of being an inspiration. How to respond to being recognized as the greatest of all time in his sport? As you might expect from a true champion, he deflects that with a great deal of finesse. For one thing, Anderson is not convinced that inspiration isn’t a dirty word.
With the injuries some Paralympians have overcome, he is acutely aware that he risks being applauded just for getting out of bed.
The trick for Anderson is in trying to play the sport like it’s an art form. Devising and demonstrating a perfect play, competing at the highest possible level…that’s where the athletic and the aesthetic can meet. Getting there is still what keeps Anderson motivated, gold medal after gold medal later.
This art-meets-athlete talk is not idle stuff. Anderson, a wheelchair basketball legend, has a successful alter ego as front man for his Brooklyn, N.Y., acoustic pop band, The Lay Awakes. But the musician side of Anderson is back on hold for now as the Paralympic campaign gears up.
All Paralympians have interesting back stories. Anderson fascinates for a dozen reasons. He’s 39 now, playing for the record books again after five years away from the court. His thoughts on returning to the game at its highest level? The challenge is not that he’s getting older, it’s that the entire sport has become much more competitively harder, stronger and faster than it was even five years ago. As Anderson sees it, that is an excellent problem to have.
Anderson has also recently penned a Player’s Own Voice essay about his coach and friend Jerry Tonello. To the best of our knowledge, the first athlete to devote an entire POV essay to writing about someone other than themselves.
Like the CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective.
To listen to Patrick Anderson, recent guests Brooke Henderson, Diana Matheson, Kaillie Humphries, Ghislaine Landry, Brian Burke or Tessa Virtue, or to listen to all the athletes from Player’s Own Voice season one, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.