“Football is like rock and roll, it's just bam-bam-boo... And basketball is like jazz, you know? You're kind of... Dupee-doo, dupee-do. It's all downbeat.” – Michael Scott
Many basketball players through the years have worked in the music industry while playing their sport professionally. But few have had a journey like Pat Anderson of the New York Rollin’ Knicks.
He is one the greatest wheelchair basketball players of all time and is the face of wheelchair basketball in his home country of Canada. The 38-year-old is as smooth rolling to the basket as he is strumming out the chords of a love song. He is a three-time Paralympic gold medalist and won the gold in the World Championships for Team Canada.
Anderson played a lot of different sports growing up, but when he was 9-year-old, he was hit by a car and had both of his legs amputated below the knee. A year later, he was introduced to wheelchair basketball and played for the Twin City Spinners in Ontario, Canada. “I’ve been playing in the NWBA for almost my whole life,” Anderson explained. “In some ways, I consider myself lucky that I was in a position to be introduced to the sport and find success in it.”
There were many Team Canada players on the Spinners, so Anderson heard their stories about national games right out the gate. He says that the seeds of wanting to play for Team Canada were planted from almost day one of his wheelchair basketball career. Anderson says he was able to face tough competition and more 4.5s growing up because able-bodied players could play on wheelchair basketball teams in Canada.
“In Canada, I saw myself as an athlete rather than a disabled athlete since I was playing able-bodied players and beating them,” the Knicks guard recalled. “That became an integral part of my upbringing.”
Anderson was chosen for Canada’s Junior National Team at the age of 16 and was named the MVP that same year. Anderson explains that he was a part of one of the more talented generations of Canadian players that rose to prominence in the 2000s.
After a solid 18-year career, Anderson retired from Team Canada in 2008. “I would be lying if I said bitterness over losing in the (2008) Beijing Olympics wasn’t a part of it,” Anderson admitted. “But that was just a small part of it. After we won the World Championships in 2006, I realized it was the last box I really wanted to check in my career.”
He still played wheelchair basketball in the NWBA and in Europe, but Anderson used his time away from Team Canada to focus on his love of music. Anderson played some guitar growing up and credits his love of music to being brought up in a family that sang songs and played the guitar around the campfire and singing in church every Sunday.
“Like sports, music was just something I always did,” Anderson said. “But music always took a back seat to basketball until my late 20s, when I began to think that music could be a bigger part of my life.”
After marrying his wife, Anna, who is also a musician, music became a bigger part of Anderson’s life. Although they didn’t collaborate full-time at the beginning of their marriage, he would occasionally back up his wife on vocals or guitar during her shows.
He made sure to explain that they didn’t fully collaborate for a long time. “If you’re getting married to a musician, just chill for a couple of years,” the Canadian legend advised. “It can be stressful when you share so much at the beginning of a marriage and then you add music on top of that too.”
However, after a few years together, they started their band, The Law Awakes, and have an album coming out on May 4. You can visit their band’s website and listen to a few of their songs here. Just listen to a few of their songs and you can feel a level of chemistry there that you wouldn’t even see with the gold medalist and his teammates.
On top of being a full-time dad and having an album release in a little over a month, Anderson now must prepare his team, the New York Rollin’ Knicks, to try to make a championship run at this year’s National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical. He says that even in the twilight of his career (his words), he is glad to play with who he thinks is one of the all-time greats, Steve Serio, and to try to improve his National Championship record. He jokingly calls his record “LeBron-like” after having a 2-6 record for all of his championship games.
In terms of who he wants to face in this year’s NWBT, his answer is not a surprising one. “I would love to play the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks again because they own this tournament,” Anderson said. “We feel like it wouldn’t be right to not face Dallas if we won the National Championship.”
Luckily, the two teams are on different sides of the bracket, so the only time they can face each other is in the championship game. If a rematch of last year’s championships happens again this year, fans should be in for quite the ride.
When asked if balancing his music and basketball career ever becomes too stressful, Anderson had a simple reply: “Come watch us play and see how broken or smooth my jump shot is and then you can see how well I’m balancing things.”
Until then, the musician will just have channel his inner Michael Scott and make sure his shot is as smooth as a jazz melody.