This story was originally published in Dime 70. Check it out on newsstands nationwide to see it in its entirety…
Every young athlete grows up dreaming to become the next Michael Jordan, the next Aaron Rodgers, the next Albert Pujols. But Matt Scott couldn’t because of a debilitating birth defect. He decided instead to become one of the best wheelchair basketball players ever.
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“An excuse is worse than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded”.
Take a moment and reflect on your life. On a daily basis, how many times do you spew out lame excuses for not getting up, getting out and doing something? Whether you’re too tired to roll out of bed for that 8 A.M. sociology class, or complaining of the Monday morning doldrums, we’ve all felt sorry for ourselves at one point.
Don’t bring that nonsense to Matt Scott. Every child who lives, breathes and drinks basketball dreams of national championships, pro ball, Olympic medals and Nike ads. Scott has done all of this and more… in a wheelchair.
“It’s never been like something was taken from me,” Scott says. “I never felt down. I’ve met some really interesting people through this sport. I’m a world traveler, professional athlete. I’ve been to the Olympics twice. I’ve done some things that a lot of people can’t say that they did.”
Scott downplays his accomplishments, insisting he has “kind of a boring story”. Born with Spina bifida, an incomplete development of the spinal cord, doctors doubted him from the very start.
“When he was born, they tried to get us to let him expire,” recalls his mother Audrey Scott. “Their exact words were you don’t have that much money and this child will never standup, walk or crawl. We should let him just expire.”
Then an infection spread throughout his body as a child, and doctors said his legs would have to be amputated. If not, he would die.
“Matt at first said no, I don’t want nothing cut off,” his mother says. “I said I respect how you feel. Mommy is going to make sure you get buried and you have a really nice funeral and I will take really good care of you. A couple days later he agreed to the surgery.”
Scott grew up happy in Detroit, completely ignoring a fact no else could. He did everything his friends did. When the neighborhood kids played on the court, little Matt was right there. No special treatment either.
“I couldn’t believe it,” longtime friend Sam Elia says. “He played better than I did for sure and just so aggressive. It didn’t stop him at all. You know how some people are like take it easy, he’s in a wheelchair? You actually had to go harder with him because he was a really athletic guy.”
“I was really lucky to have the friends that I have because they never took it easy on me at all,” says Scott. “In fact, if there was a way they could absolutely dominate me or just completely take advantage of a weakness they would do it. They didn’t look down on me.”
The kid who dribbled the basketball everywhere from lunch to bed found an outlet to show off his game with wheelchair basketball at the age of 14. There were reservations at first.
“I saw it in a negative light,” he says. “That’s me being in a wheelchair so I can’t imagine what some people think sometimes when they hear wheelchair basketball.”
Scott played juniors in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. He led the Michigan Thunderbirds to an undefeated season, captured two national titles and MVP honors.
Pretty soon Scott witnessed how far wheelchair basketball could take him. As an 18-year-old, he made the 2004 U.S. Paralympics team, representing the country in Athens, Greece.