Shawn Bradley was an NBA mainstay for 12 years. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft spent most of his professional basketball career with the Dallas Mavericks, playing 582 games with the team over nine seasons.
Bradley had been enjoying retirement until his life tragically changed in January 2021. He was riding his bike close to his home in St. George, Utah when a driver violently struck him from behind. The wreck gave him a traumatic spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed.
Doctors consider him a quadriplegic medically. He is unable to feel anything below his chest. However, he still can move and use his arms.
“Being an elite athlete, playing at the highest level, to have someone help change my diaper — I mean, come on, that’s not easy,” Bradley said in an exclusive interview with KSL.com.
In the interview, which you can watch in the link above, Bradley recounts the details leading up to the wreck. He notes that he was wearing reflective clothing and that his bicycle also had lights and reflective features. Cyclists are often chided for not wearing the “appropriate” clothing in what amounts to a strawman argument.
Every day is a struggle for Bradley, who must wake up every few hours at night and turn, an arduous task, to prevent bedsores. Through all the struggles, though, his wife Carrie has been by his side trying to make the best of the situation, finding moments of hope and humor to help ease the pain.
“We try to be positive,” Bradley said. “I’m not real good at it. I’m OK at it. Carrie is amazing at it. So, I’m really grateful for how much she helps me be positive in so many things.”
Still, it isn’t easy for Bradley, who is a man of deep faith. He doesn’t want to be a burden on the ones he loves.
“I wouldn’t say I have depression,” Bradley said. “But there are thoughts that come into your head. ‘Well maybe it would be easier for the people around me if I just wasn’t here. It’s not just me that was affected at all – in fact, I kind of have the easy part. I get to sit in a chair, scoot around, and try to be as positive as I can. Everyone around me has a big load to carry because I can’t do it anymore.”
He is still trying to define his life since his injury. He is making improvements that were initially thought to be medically impossible, such as using his hands effectively. But he doesn’t want to live in false hope, he says. He wants to live but also continue to progress.
Bradley’s injury is a reminder of the dangers we all face living in a car-centric society. He and his family do not hold any ill will toward the driver that struck him, but he launched an awareness campaign focused on the perils of distracted driving as well as bicycle safety. Cities must do more to protect those on bikes and on foot. If they don’t, injuries like Bradley’s – or worse – will remain commonplace.