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He Defied the Odds and Found Wheelchair Basketball

11/15/2019, 4:00pm CST
By Rebekah Markovitz

You can hear the tremble in his throat and the tears welling up in his eyes. “My older brother grabbed me by my shirt and shook me around and was just like…” There’s a slight pause as he tries to collect himself. “‘What are you doing? You are 22, you have so much going for yourself and now you are just going to lay there and waste away?’” said Steven Davis. 

Davis is a Navy Veteran and wheelchair basketball saved his life. 

At just 18 years old, Davis joined the Navy as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate. Several of his family members had served and after September 11, he felt he had a duty to serve as well. As an Aviation Electrician’s Mate, he was assigned to a helicopter combat squadron and did several work of detachments where he would help strike groups prepare for deployment, conduct search and rescues, submarine and mine sweeping, and maintenance on air crafts. 

During one of his work of detachments, he was offered an opportunity to go home two days early. Having been on a ship for several weeks, Davis was eager to be back on land to ride his motorcycle. Him and his friend rode around San Diego for hours, but on their way to the movie theatre, their leisure ride took a turn for the worse. 

Davis and his friend were at an intersection when a car pulled the wrong way out of the adjacent parking lot and sent Davis airborne into a light pole. First responders arrived at the scene and immediately took him to the hospital.

“They loaded me up and after that it was basically a scene from Iron Man. I was in and out of consciousness. I remember I kept telling them I was going to go to sleep and to wake me up when we are at the hospital. They kept telling me ‘no man, if you go to sleep you are done. You are not waking back up,’” said Davis. 

Over the next couple months, Davis had over 30 surgeries while in an induced coma. He woke up to huge metal rods in his body, but it was not the news of his injuries that upset him. It was when his chain of command told him that his career was over. 

“I really wanted to be in for 20 plus years. I love the military, I loved what it was doing for my life. I was striving for greatness. I was doing really well at my job. I planned on making a career of it,” he said. “When my chain of command told me that it broke my heart. I was like ‘how can you tell me that? I am not even months post injury and you are telling me I am never going to recover?’”

Davis was told he would never walk or stand again, and accepted medical retirement in 2009 with what was best for his life and future family in mind. After being discharged, he became unwillingly addicted to pain killers for a little over a year and was 240 pounds. 

“It was dark. It was dirty. It was not fun. During those times I definitely did not see light. I didn’t see myself coming out of this time in my life,” he said. 

Davis’s brother gave him the push he needed to defy the doctor’s statement and turn his life around. He got Davis to go the gym, and from there he started going habitually, got into better shape and began walking without a cane. A year and a half later, he tried adaptive sports.

Originally, Davis was skeptical of trying adaptive sports and turned down multiple offers to try it. He finally decided to try wheelchair basketball in 2012 when his Master Chief Petty Officer gave him “an opportunity he could not resist.” Davis was invited to Hawaii for the Navy Wounded Warrior Games trials where he tried sitting volleyball, track and field, shooting, swimming, and wheelchair basketball. 

Davis had played able-bodied basketball from elementary school to highschool and in the Navy and struggled physically and mentally to transition from able-bodied ball to wheelchair basketball. 

“Learning to use my chair as a tool rather than something that is holding me back was a big adjustment for me,” he said. 

Eventually, Davis began to improve and from there, adaptive sports took over his life. He made Team Navy for the Warrior Games in 2013, played for Team USA in the Invictus Games, lead sitting volleyball to gold, basketball to silver, rugby to silver, has played for the NWBA for seven years, and was recently named Captain of Team Navy.  

Davis set out to make a difference in his teammates’ and other injured veterans’ lives in his leadership role. “It was not about how many points I could score, how many assists I could make, or how cool I looked on the court,” he said. “It became, how can I make someone else fall in love with this sport? How can I show someone else there is a light in the dark they might be living in?” 

Adaptive sports helped Davis learn how to live a better life. It opened up a whole new world of opportunities that inspired him to give people what wheelchair basketball gave to him.

“Wheelchair basketball is one of the best things that has ever happened in my life outside of my kids and my wife,” he said.  

Davis currently lives in Salida, California with his wife and two kids - ten and four years old. He describes his family as his biggest supporters. 

“They are the ones who see me on my darkest days and see me in my best days and still support me no matter what...they are what make my world go round, are my biggest support system and my biggest motivators.”

Shout-out to Warrior Foundation Freedom Station

Davis would like to give a shout out to Warrior Foundation Freedom Station. He states, "They are an amazing foundation that has helped with the purchase of my last two basketball chairs. Without them, and their help I wouldn’t be able have the equipment that is required to play at the highest level. They always have my back."

Thank you Veterans

The NWBA would like to thank all Veterans for their service. We appreciate our Veteran members telling their stories and for becoming involved in our sport, regardless of their story. 


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