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Paralympian credits mother for his will to win

<i>KPIX</i><br/>Matt Scott showed off his basketball skills on an abnormally-warm winter afternoon at Moscone Park.
KPIX
KPIX
Matt Scott showed off his basketball skills on an abnormally-warm winter afternoon at Moscone Park.

By Maria Cid Medina

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    SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — This Black History Month, KPIX is highlighting Bay Area leaders and trailblazers, including one San Francisco man who never let his disability stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional basketball player.

Matt Scott showed off his basketball skills on an abnormally-warm winter afternoon at Moscone Park.

He proudly wore a Paralympic T-shirt. After all, Scott — who was born with spina bifida — is a five-time Paralympian and two-time gold medalist.

From the time Scott could remember, he looked at himself as someone without a disability and he dreamed that way too.

“I’ve always loved basketball,” he said. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Isiaah Thomas. I used to watch the original ‘bad boy’ Pistons. I would just work really hard to be an NBA player. I never felt like I was missing anything.”

So when Scott discovered wheelchair basketball at age 15, he went all-in to be the best of the best.

“When I first played I was like, ‘Wow, OK, this really takes some skill.’”

Scott played wheelchair basketball in college and won several national championships but that wasn’t enough.

In 2004, Scott competed in his first Paralympic Games. He returned two more times before winning his first gold medal in 2016, in Rio de Janeiro.

“This meant a lot to me because of the climb,” Scott said as he proudly held his medal.

But, in 2018, Scott’s sports career nearly ended and so did his dreams of winning a second gold medal when a sore on his body turned into an infection — then sepsis. He says he almost died.

“I was in a seven-day coma and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to return to the basketball floor — let alone the Paralympic stage again,” he said. “I went into a septic shock, ended up passing out and waking up a week later not knowing if I was going to be able to be the basketball player that I am now.”

One year later, Scott not only returned to the court. He also returned to the Paralympic stage and won his second gold medal in 2021.

“So this one is newer, this is coming from the Tokyo Paralympics. This one means a lot to me because of what I had to go through to get there,” he said as he held up his second gold medal.

Scott’s accomplishments stretch farther than the court. He’s the first Paralympian to be fully featured in a Nike commercial. He also works at Visa on the Olympic and Paralympic development program. That job is what brought him to San Francisco.

“The thing about representation is it’s huge. I want some little Black kid in a wheelchair to look on TV and to look on social media and look at the accomplishments that I’ve done and be like, ‘I can do that and — no, no, no — screw that! I can do better than that!’” Scott said.

His biggest achievement by far, he said, is making his mother proud. He said she didn’t give up on him even when others told her they would have a tough road ahead and so he lives his life pushing forward for her.

“As my mother is smiling, I know that I’m doing my job,” said Scott. “She could have very easily given up, she could have very easily said, ‘Hey, maybe having a child with a disability is too hard.’ Because she knew I was going to have a disability prior to me coming out. She could’ve very well terminated that pregnancy. So I just wanted to bring her something golden back every time that I play basketball. She’s proud of me, she’s proud of me and I’m proud of her. My mother is my hero.”

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