Canadian Special Olympics athlete excited to play at NBA all-star weekend

TORONTO — Micheal Wright plans to bring some NBA-style finesse to the Special Olympics World Summer Games this spring.

Wright is the only Canadian out of 12 Special Olympics athletes competing in a Unified Sports game with players from the NBA and WNBA on Friday as part of the league’s all-star weekend in Charlotte, N.C.

Wright, from Mississauga, Ont., wants to meet Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard and Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and ask them for advice ahead of the Special Olympics World Games.

“That’s what I’m hoping for, to take some tips and bring it to the worlds and probably perfecting it,” said Wright. “Not that what they do isn’t 100 per cent perfect, but I want to make it my own.”

The 26-year-old point guard helped the Mississauga Storm win the national championship earlier this year. The team will represent Canada at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, starting on March 14.

The Special Olympics World Games is an international sporting competition for athletes with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Getting to play with professional basketball players and represent Canada internationally in the same year has been a thrilling experience for Wright.

“It’s an honour and amazing that I’m the only Canadian at the all-star weekend,” said Wright. “I thought there would be two, maybe three, other Canadians. But it’s amazing and it’s an honour and I really appreciate it.

“I’m a little nervous to go to Abu Dhabi and see who we’re going to be playing against.”

Wright’s trip to the NBA all-star weekend came together quickly. He was approached by coach Wayne Meyer after a Storm practice with the opportunity and within 24 hours they had put together a YouTube video and written an essay with the help of his aunt Kimberly Wright, who will accompany him to Charlotte.

A week later, Micheal Wright got a call at home telling him that he’d been selected for the Unified Game. After telling his cousin and calling his aunt to spread the good news Wright went to his bedroom to lie down and absorb what was happening.

“I had to take a moment for myself and breathe. It was something,” said Wright. “I honestly panicked, I was so happy. My cousin was at home too and she was starting to wonder what was going on. My family is just really happy for me.”

Meyer feels that the decision to nominate Wright to go to the NBA all-star weekend was the right choice, especially after seeing how well the Special Olympics athlete has handled the extra training and responsibilities associated with the trip. More than anything, Meyer is impressed by Wright’s humility.

“The great thing about it is even with his teammates on the Storm, he doesn’t have that bragging mentality,” said Meyer. “Even at practices he doesn’t really talk much about it, but you know it’s there. When we talk about it, the excitement’s there.

“He’s the perfect athlete to be sending down (to Charlotte). I’m proud of him, I’m happy for his aunt, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment.”

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