December 5, 2012
When an athlete comes out of retirement, he tends to be a bit rusty and has trouble finding his groove again. However, this was not the case for Canadian wheelchair basketball star Patrick Anderson, who came out of retirement in 2010 to make another run at his third Paralympic gold. Not at all.
Individually, the 33-year-old was the top wheelchair basketball star at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, posting career numbers by averaging 25 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists per game.
He scored a game-high of 34 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for Canada in their 64-54 gold-medal win against Australia, helping his team avenge their loss against Australia from the Beijing 2008 final.
"It equaled anything that Michael Jordan has ever done and beyond."
“I think Patrick Anderson is definitely one of the greatest players ever,” IPC President Sir Philip Craven said, a former wheelchair basketball player himself.
“He came back with an absolute bang. I’ve seen some great performances in over 40 years of watching international wheelchair basketball, but the way that he completely controlled the final against Australia like a chess master was quite amazing. It equaled anything that Michael Jordan has ever done and beyond.”
Anderson was like a little kid playing the game he loves all over again.
“It felt like the first thing I’ve ever won because I wasn’t thinking about any past successes,” Anderson said.
“It was very satisfying, especially for me personally. I was disengaged from a competitive level for a number of years, so it kind of surprised me how meaningful the moment was when we finally won. I thought it might just be that win or lose it’d be more about the experience, but it felt really good to win.
“It had been eight years since we won. It’s not like we’d done it six months before or something.”
In his fourth Paralympic Games, Anderson averaged nearly 31 minutes per game and his stats were better than in any of his previous appearances, particularly his 60 per cent increase in assists per game from the last Paralympics.
The former team captain has remained extremely humble when discussing his performances, though, preferring to credit current captains David Eng and Bo Hedges for their team play.
“‘Been there done that’ is not a good vibe to rub off on the younger guys,” Anderson said. “I think you have to be blinded not to see the contribution of other people.
“We won before, but I can say that it really felt like a really unique experience with that particular group of guys at that particular time. From a results point of view, things went really well, but beyond that it was really rewarding to see a mix of older veteran players and coaches mixed with younger guys and have a really unique experience.”
Anderson exposed his diminutive vulnerability only in the second half of Canada’s 73-66 win over Germany in the preliminary round, having to lean on Hedges after failing to find the bucket several times in the final two quarters.
And during the moments he laid low in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, Joey Johnson stepped up to help him out.
“Those performances just motivated me to fine-tune my preparations for the final game, and I feel like I did that,” Anderson said. “I sort of benefitted from the learning experience I think.”
With his wife, best friends and family in the London crowd, and those who could not make it live streaming his games back home, winning gold made the experience even sweeter.
Anderson has yet to return to Canadian soil since the Games. He immediately ventured back to New York with his wife, where he is pursuing a general music degree at Hunter College.
He plans to return home to Canada for the first time later this month, and then again next summer, when his parents will throw him a late celebration party.
“We’ll keep celebrating as long as we can,” Anderson chuckled. “We’ll stretch it out. But, I don’t want to overshadow Christmas now.”
In regards to what comes next, Anderson will leave the national team for the upcoming year and then make a decision next summer on whether he will return for another World Championships or Paralympic Games.
“I’ll certainly continue the sport in some capacity, but for now I’ve taken the next year to step away from the national team and finish my degree,” Anderson said.
“Whatever happens, I’m definitely going to be involved in the sport one way or another.”
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