From the sandy shores and urban bustle of the city of Chennai, capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, comes a story of strife, struggle, and excellence. Meet the superhuman team of Wheelchair Basketball Players, who are breaking the boundaries of physical limitations, and crushing stereotypes with their powerful drive and motivation. The NBA and Uber Present: Hoop Nation, tales of courage and determination from the basketball courts of India.
Sports have the ability to unite people, surpassing the boundaries of race, age, nationality, colour, and speech. A universal language through which many truths are conveyed, the world of sports does not discriminate amongst the haves and have-nots. The only criterion one must meet is skill, complemented by unbounded ambition. This was the mantra by which the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India was founded; with an aim to support lovers of basketball, whose physical limitations cannot hold a candle to the light of their drive and ambition.
Hoops on Wheels
“When we started, we wanted them to just play,” explains Kalyani Rajaraman, Vice President of WBFI, “We never expected that now, four years down the line, we would have such a large family of players.”
The beloved brainchild of Vice President Kalyani Rajaraman, and President and Asian Paralympics Champion, Madhavi Latha, WBFI is breaking new ground in furthering sports amongst those who are differently-abled.
The institution has bred such awe-inspiring talent as Partha Sarthy, India’s very own Iverson on wheels, who is currently wowing crowds with his trick-shots on the Wheelchair Basketball Team of Alabama University, where he is pursuing a 5-year Bachelor’s program in Kinesiology and Exercise Science, with an adapted athletic scholarship.
A community of sportsmen, the players of WBFI serve as their own sources of inspiration, leaving no room for hesitation, fear, or faltering amongst their peers. The players, who instill a sense of pride and motivation amongst their teams, accept no allowances for not fitting the mould of the average player. “The basket heights are the same, as are the timings and the lengths. They’re all the same,” explains WBFI player Partha Sarthy.
A Talented Tribe
“In India, the population of people with disabilities is very high- but so is the number of talented players,” adds Kalyani Rajaraman.
In a country where daily life and travel is made nearly impossible for those who are wheelchair-bound, where accessibility is limited to those who fit the norm of physical fitness, the WBFI’s initiative heralds a time of change, where India as a nation unites to uplift each and every one of its citizens, regardless of their background. “This gives a basic avenue for wheelchair users to come out of their shells,” Says Dr. C Ananda Joshi, Founder Director of the Sri Sugam Physiotherapy Institute.
Himmat & Hip-Hop
The relationship between the sport of basketball and the genre of hip-hop has been well documented over the years. The message of strife and the want for more, which has been a central theme of both realms, is one that marries the two in almost perpetual harmony.
“Hip-Hop music has always derived inspiration from the environment and surroundings of the artist,” Elaborates Dee MC, a Mumbai-based rapper who lends her lyrical stylings to this episode of HoopNation, “Manipulated citizens come as a byproduct of the system.”
Shooting hoops for fun in the playground at school, Dee MC traveled to Chennai with the Hoop Nation team, unsure of what to expect. What she was met with, was an experience that would stay with her forever. “The whole experience was way too intense to put into words,” Dee says, “It was humbling and motivating to the core.”
Inspired by her interactions with the WBFI and its players, Dee explains that the lyrics for the soundtrack flowed from her with natural ease. “Hearing them share the stories of their journeys was one of the most positive experiences of my life. It fueled me to make a song that is truly an ode to these superhumans.” She elaborates.
It was so that the title track for Hoops on Wheels, the punchy and uplifting ‘Himmat’ was born, being written and recorded in a span of just 4 days from the start of filming. Watch the music video featuring Dee MC and the WBFI players here!
The determination and will of the WBFI players are enough to move and inspire, causing a ripple effect that instills a sense of belonging and pride amongst those who dream of bigger and better things, serving as a reminder that the impossible is often just within reach. As Dee MC so aptly puts it, “Himmat hi kaafi hai.”
Watch Episode 1 of NBA x Uber Presents: Hoop Nation – Hoops on Wheels Ft. Dee MC here!
Stay tuned for the next episode of the NBA x Uber Presents: Hoop Nation, as we travel to the remote village of Gangyap in Sikkim, to meet with the Girls of Gangyap.
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