SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – This Black History Month, KPIX is spotlighting Bay Area leaders and pioneers, including a San Francisco man who never let his disability stop him from pursue his dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
Matt Scott showed off his basketball skills on a freakishly hot 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 a two-time gold medalist.
From the moment Scott remembered, he thought of 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 watched 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 something.”
So when Scott discovered wheelchair basketball at the age of 15, he went all-in to be the best of the best.
“When I first played I was like, ‘Wow, okay, that really takes skill. “”
Scott played wheelchair basketball in college and won several national championships, but it wasn’t enough.
In 2004, Scott competed in his first Paralympic Games. He came back twice more before winning his first gold medal in 2016, in Rio de Janeiro.
“It meant a lot to me because of the climb,” Scott said as he proudly held up his medal.
But, in 2018, Scott’s sporting career nearly came to an end, as did his dream of winning a second gold medal when a wound on his body turned into an infection and 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 get back on the basketball court – let alone the Paralympic stage again,” he said. “I went into septic shock, eventually passed out and woke up a week later not knowing if I was going to be the basketball player I am now.”
A year later, Scott hasn’t just returned to court. He also returned to the Paralympic scene and won his second gold medal in 2021.
“So this one is more recent, it comes from the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. This one means a lot to me because of what I had to go through to get there,” he said, holding up his second gold medal.
Scott’s accomplishments extend beyond the court. He is the first Paralympian to be fully featured in a Nike ad. He also works at Visa on the Olympic and Paralympic development program. It was this work that brought him to San Francisco.
“The problem with representation is that it is huge. I want a little black kid in a wheelchair to watch TV and watch social media and look at the accomplishments that I’ve made and be like, “I can do this and – no, no, no – fuck that!” I can do better than that! said Scott.
His greatest achievement, by far, he said, is making his mother proud. He said she didn’t give up on him even when others told him they would have a tough road ahead and so he lived his life pushing forward for her.
“As my mom smiles, I know I’m doing my job,” Scott said. “She could have very easily given up, she could have very easily said, ‘Hey, maybe having a disabled child is too difficult. Because she knew I was going to have a disability before I got out. She could very well have terminated this pregnancy. So I just wanted to bring him something golden every time I play basketball. She’s proud of me, she’s proud of me, and I’m proud of her. My mother is my hero.