In a couple of weeks we, Team Canada, will host the Japanese National Team at TPASC in Toronto for a test series. (Come watch!) Our teams are not dissimilar. Both have a couple of well established veterans and some intriguing young talent. I had the pleasure of hanging out with two of their young dudes on a recent trip to Tokyo to celebrate #1000DaysToGo before the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. We ran a basketball clinic together and played 1 on 1 at a shopping mall in front of sponsors, media cameras and, well, shoppers. Home court pressure was on Tak and Ren - it's only national TV, don't screw up! - and they acquitted themselves admirably. They played well. But I won ;)
I had to point that out because that's what old dogs do. But also, it fits into a larger story about how I've experieced some of the most memorable wins and losses of my career on Japanese soil.
2002 - It was my second World Championships with Team Canada. We were coming off Paralympic gold in Sydney and still ascendant. It was our time. But we ran into a smoking hot Paul Schulte and a USA team that had been, shall we say, going through some inner turmoil, but were suddenly united in the face of adversity. Still, we were in a strong position to pull out the semi final win until I made the most bone headed play of my career, which led to OT, then double OT, and ultimately a something-is-better-than-nothing bronze. (You can watch that inglorious moment, with my own commentary, here! Learn from my mistakes - take the layup!) Result: Loss. Pain meter: 9/10.
2006 - After winning Canadian Nationals in May, Team Ontario was invited to play in the Kitakyushu Cup - a club tournament featuring four teams; the winners of the Japanese, Aussie, European, and Canadian Leagues. We matched up in the final against Joey Johnson and my former German club RSV Lahn-Dill. Down 12 late with no hope, it was time for prayer. Led by sledge hockey legends Brad Bowden and Billy Bridges, we started launching 3's - code name "Merry Christmas" for some forgotten inside-joke reason - and they all went in. When the buzzer sounded, we erupted with the kind of joy that springs from completely unexpected windfalls. Five minutes later we were cool, because it was an exhibition game. Relax fellas. Result: Win. Buzz factor: extremely high, short lived.
2008 - Once again, the Kitakyushu Cup brought in the Canadian champs, this time the Vancouver Cable Cars. And once again, we found ourselves down in the second half, seemingly overmatched. But once again, we hit a couple 3's, and suddenly we were flying, while our opponents from the Turkish super club Galatasaray were starting to look nervous. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the end of this one. I would have liked to stay, but I had to nip out to the hospital to have a broken wrist reset after suffering the only injury of my career (KNOCK ON WOOD!!!) My fellow BC boys fought hard to the bitter end, but we came up short. Result: Loss and loss of mobility for 6-8 weeks. Pain meter: LOL
2017 - I beat some kids in 1 on 1 at a shopping mall.
Ok, so the last one doesn't quite fit. But it was fun. And I'm sorry, I shouldn't call them kids - they're not Kyrie Irving and I'm not Lebron ;) In any case, I'm looking forward to the Tokyo Games. With hard work and any luck, I'll have another chance in 2020 to write another chapter to this sometimes joyous, sometimes painful story!