Following her recent announcement she is retiring from playing international wheelchair basketball, here USA’s Becca Murray reflects on how wheelchair basketball changed her life, as well as some of her favourite memories from her career and what she plans to do in the future.
A two-time Paralympic Gold medallist, 30-year-old Murray explained the reasoning behind her decision to retire and how it has been a long time coming:
“I actually decided to retire after the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. I was ready to live life outside of basketball and to focus on my career and buying my own place to live, but I was asked back in 2019 to help the team qualify in Lima at the 2019 Parapan Am Games and to possibly make the team that would compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. At the time I got asked back it worked perfectly. I was on track to be able to buy my own place to live at the end of 2020. Little did we all know that the 2020 Paralympics would be postponed a year and wouldn’t be held until 2021. It was a tough decision but there were a couple things that weighed heavy on my mind, including buying my own place to live at the end of 2020 which would not be possible if I continued to miss as much work as I did while training and competing, and also I could not get myself to a place mentally to where I wanted to continue training at the most elite level. Each day required me to get up at 4am in the morning to get a shooting workout in, go to work for 8 hours, and then put in another couple hours of strength and conditioning after work. I would also have to fit in work on sports psych and making sure my mental game was on point. It wouldn’t be fair to my team if I wasn’t all in and I couldn’t get myself there, so I decided it was time to retire for the last time.”
Murray, who has been playing the game of wheelchair basketball for over 24 years, revealed how she got into the sport:
“I first started playing wheelchair basketball at the age of 6. I was playing street hockey through an organization called IndependenceFirst, and this is where I got my first opportunity to play wheelchair sports. I liked playing street hockey so much that I asked my mom to look into more sports that I could play and one of them was wheelchair basketball. When I got out on the court for the very first time, I just fell in love with it.
“Wheelchair basketball has brought fulfilment to my life in many ways. When you’re a young child in a wheelchair, I think children can be very resilient but there is always that thought inside of your mind that no-one at your school or in your community looks like you or can really understand the obstacles you go through in life. When I started playing wheelchair sports, I finally had a community that totally understood me. Playing wheelchair sports has brought this acceptance of myself. When I was younger I used to be very shy. Through the wheelchair basketball community, I have learned to find my voice and to be more accepting of who I am as a whole person. Wheelchair basketball has also been where I could feed my competitive side as well. A lot of people have told me that who I am on the court and how competitive I am is the complete opposite of who I am off the court. I think wheelchair basketball has been the place where I can feed my competitive nature and also relieve life’s stress. When I’m on the court, I don’t think of anything except for what is happening at that very second. It’s my escape. Lastly, wheelchair basketball has brought so many amazing people into my life and all of my closest friends are from the wheelchair basketball community. My life would be totally different and who I am as a person would be totally different if it weren’t for wheelchair basketball.”
Not only has wheelchair basketball bought her fulfilment, but it has given her some lifelong memories:
“Some of my best memories of wheelchair basketball include helping start the UW-Whitewater Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team. UW-Whitewater has felt like home to me ever since I was 11 years old and attended their wheelchair basketball camp, and it meant so much to be to be able to play out my college career there and win three National Championships (2012-2014). I’m proud to be a part of such an amazing family.
“Another favourite memory of mine is scoring one of the last second shots to win the 2010 World Championship. I was still pretty young and still earning my respect at the international level, and Christina Schwab and I were on one side of the floor working together in a play that we called “Wisconsin” since we were both from the state. I dove in a screen for Christina and Germany had double jumped Christina since she was known to be a sharpshooter which left me wide open for a lay-up. Christina passed me the ball and I made the shot to put us up by one possession with only seconds left in the game. It felt amazing!
“Other favourite memories include winning gold at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, as well as winning gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with a team that suffered heartache in the 2012 Paralympics and fell to 4th place. Being able to overcome that heartache and to use that to fuel us to work hard and recapture the gold in 2016 felt amazing!”
Throughout her time in the sport, Murray has been inspired by many:
“There have been so many people that have motivated and inspired me throughout my journey and it would take me years to name everyone and to truly share my appreciation for them and what they have done for me, but I am so grateful for everyone that has been in my corner and I will be forever grateful for each and every one of them.
“The thing I will miss most about the game is how the international game brought so many people from so many different walks of life together for the love of the game. Putting competitiveness to the side, I have met so many wonderful people from all over the world and I think I’m going to miss this part the most. The journey of it all will be truly missed.”
You would think winning two gold medals at a Paralympics and becoming World Champion would list high on Murray’s greatest achievements, but she is humble when it comes to her accomplishments:
“My greatest achievement when it comes to wheelchair basketball is hopefully being a player and person that younger generations can look up to. As I stated before, when I was younger and what got me into trying wheelchair sports is the fact that I didn’t have anyone at my school that looked like me. I want to be that role model for kids that when they see me and everything that I have accomplished both in wheelchair basketball and in life, they can see the amazing opportunities that you can have if you work hard and follow your dreams. I think a lot of times when you have a disability people want to put you under limitations. They may not mean to, but I think sometimes people think that people with disabilities will only accomplish so much in life. But the truth is the world is yours if you want it.”
Despite retiring from international basketball, Murray plans to maintain her involvement in the sport:
“I plan to continue to play for the D1 Milwaukee Bucks and for the Milwaukee Lady Bucks. I hope to continue to be a role model and mentor for the younger generations in any way I can.”
Off-court she has plans too:
“As for right now, my main goal is to buy a condo at the end of this year. I’m super excited about having my own place and getting to decorate it! I’m also looking forward to getting to spend more time with family and friends and traveling for fun without the basketball chair.”
IWBF would like to wish Becca all the best in her future endeavours.