Story of a Wheelchair Basketball Legend
David Kiley, aka DK, began his love affair with basketball straight out of the womb. Raised in Costa Mesa in SoCal, DK played the sport from morning to evening on the hoop his dad hung from the garage roof or on any outdoor court that he could walk or ride his bike to. Playing and practicing solo and alone was a habit he enjoyed and while dreaming of the time he'd possibly be playing at UCLA or being a pro with the Lakers.
Injury and a 'near disability' came early in Dave Kiley's life. Hit by a pickup truck riding his bike to school in the 4th grade, his little spirit was shattered along with the bones in his knees. One surgery and comeback after another with one goal in mind….TO PLAY. Through arthritis and pain, Kiley started at point guard at the power house Orange County high school, Mater Dei. His game was strong and built around making teammates better, being "the floor general" at the point. Some colleges took notice of his game in the 70’s, one of them being Gonzaga.
However, spinal cord injury rocked his world at this time while he was inner tubing in Southern California mountains at Big Bear. Devastated, DK entered rehabilitation at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, in Downey, CA. He was very reluctant and suspicious when one day Ed Owen (NWBA Legend and Hall of Famer) entered his room to talk about wheelchair basketball. Kiley dreamed of overcoming paralysis not playing wheelchair basketball. As the gravity and reality of his situation began to set in after months of therapy his mind began to accept the fact he may not ever walk or play ball on his feet again. DK’s mind was opened and blown when he watched Ed Owen play on a hospital court outdoors. Next came a willing spirit to attempt to play. A defining moment that he credits for saving his life he began to play again is an understatement. Hitting the outdoor beach courts he knew well prior to injury, DK practiced long hours by himself. This served as a distraction from the loss he felt in his heart and each day he got better at the game and the ‘Game of Life’.
Just two years after his injury he made the USA National Team in basketball and track going the Paralympic Games in 1976. 5 for 5 in his events winning a Gold in basketball and 4 Golds in track becoming the fastest man in the world in the 100 meters.
What would follow over the years would be playing for the USA in four different decades winning 9 Paralympic Gold Medals, 2 Silvers and 2 Bronze in three different sports i.e. Basketball, Track and Alpine Skiing. 8 NWBA National Championships and 6 MVPs (the most won by a player) World Championships and much more that will be left unsaid.
David Kiley was also the first wheelchair athlete to appear in Sports Illustrated and to his joy, he was pictured with his two children Justin and Danielle. Married to a loving and supportive wife, Sandy, DK is now a grandfather, a role he embraces like no other and feels "life couldn’t get any better."
Today and over time Kiley has given back to the sport he loves. A former Commissioner and President of the NWBA, his leadership caused significant changes in the game. Kiley negotiated the first official partnership with NBA and launched the NBA/NWBA Wheelchair Basketball All-Star Game.
In terms of technology and design of wheelchairs made for basketball, he was a pioneer with the help of a team of his friends and counterparts. Center of gravity adjustment, fifth/sixth wheels, ratchet straps and quick release axles all have his hand print on them in one way or another from the beginning.
Currently and for the past decades he has also given to youth and women athletes as a coach and mentor. Kiley said “I don’t want to be just on the take, I have to give back, I love to give back and want to leave a wheel print on our sport and in life.”
The development of DK3 is his crown jewel of giving back.
dk's WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL LIFE VIA PHOTOS
Below, what you are about to see is the relentless desire of an athlete to leave his "Wheel Print" on the sport he loves and his impact on future generations that would come after him.