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Basketball and the Deaf

Deaf Basketball
By John Taylor
April 5, 2009

Deaf Basketball

The use of American Sign Language has spread Throughout America and is used every day. The deaf use this language to express themselves and communicate. The language has evolved from just simple signs into a complex language with many different variations of a single sign. ASL, American Sign Language, has spread its way into the world of athletic competition. One such sport that ASL has spread to is basketball.

Basketball has been an increasing popular sport among elite deaf athletes around the world. The deaf have long been competing in sports, though they usually compete against other deaf athletes. The Akron Club for the Deaf in Ohio sponsored the first national basketball tournament in the United States in 1945, and established the American Athletic Union of the Deaf (USDAF, 2006). This later became the American Athletic Association of the Deaf, and in 1997, the USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF). It was created to promote and regulate uniform rules of competition and to provide a social outlet for deaf athletes and their friends (USDAF, 2006). It serves as the parent organization for national sports organizations, conducts annual athletic competitions, and assists US teams in participating in international competitions. One interesting fact about the USADSF is that athletes competing cannot wear hearing aids or cochlea implants during play, to ensure fair play (USADB, 2008).

Many Deaf Athletes have enjoyed success in the world of basket ball. But few have had great success in the world of hearing basketball play. One player that has had great success is Lance Alfred. Alfred is a former and the first legally deaf player for the National Basketball's Association (NBA) . Alfred has done what few deaf basket ball players have done by making it to the NBA. In high school Alfred was the 1998-1999 Gatorade Player of the Year. Alfred, as a senior, averaged 17.3 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game and was rated as one of the top 100 recruits by CNN/Sports Illustrated (Utah, 2000). He was a first team all-state selection by both the Salt Lake Tribune and Desert News (Utah, 2000). Alfred has represented for the USA Deaf Basketball team and came in second place at the 2002 World Deaf Basketball Championships in Athens, Greece. Alfred is a 6'11, 255ib Center/ Power Forward. Alfred enjoyed a four year professional carrier with the Idaho Stampede and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Basketball is a sport that is enjoyed by many deaf and disabled people. A basketballs root run deep and is playable by all people. There are many Deaf Athlete that's refuse to let being deaf stop them. There are many who embrace being deaf and wish to never hear. Basket ball is a fun sport embraced by the deaf and ASL. ASL is used every day and is highly used in the world of deaf athletic competition. ASL will continue to spread throughout the United States and become more and more used by hearing and deaf people.


State, Utah (01 April 2009). Lance Alfred Player Profile. Retrieved April 6, 2009, from Web site:

Blazz Sports (2006). History of USDAF. Retrieved 1 April 2009, from Web site:

USADB, (01 April 2009). Hearing Loss Requirements for All Athletes. Retrieved April 6, 2009, from Web site:

American Sign Language and Basketball
By Alex Ward
April 05, 2009

American Sign Language and Basketball

It may seem kind of wierd to see these two things in the same sentance but despite what you believe there are actually some deaf basketball players and coaches who are very good at the sport and can affectivelly communicate with their team while on the court and off the court.

Michael Lizarraga is a 20 year old sophomore who plays on the basketball team at Cal State Northridge. Cal State Northridge is a good Division 1 school that made it to the March Madness tourniment this year. This story fascinated me not only because it's awesome that Michael is deaf and uses american sign language to communicate with his teamates but I have personally played against Michael when we were both about seventeen years old. "Lizarraga isn't likely to play today against No. 2 seed Memphis -- he's averaged 1.6 points and 0.9 rebounds while seeing action in just eight games. But coach Bobby Braswell said he's an important part of the squad." (Faraudo, 2009). I remember playing against Michael and I got side tracked during the game paying attention to his signing to communicate rather than focusing on the game.

It's not just the basketball players but also Coaches that can use american sign language to communicate with their teams. Debbie Ayres is the head basketball coach for California School of the Deaf in Freemont. She is a very successful coach and coached five years at Cal State Fullerton before switching to the job in Freemont. "Ayres is the women's basketball coach for the California School for the Deaf in Fremont and her team can't hear her give audible directions from the sidelines. Stomping on the floor is just one method she uses to communicate with her team on the court." (Groshans, 2009). Facing many problems in her first year Ayres said this about that year, "I didn't know American Sign Language 12 years ago," recalled Ayres, who initially faced a language barrier and resistance from parents. Fortunately, the resistance fell away after the team won the Western States Deaf Basketball Championship in her first year." (Groshans, 2009). She could probably recruit players from the Deaf International Basketball Federation (DIBF).

I never knew that there was a basketball organization for the deaf but it turns out that the DIBF=2 0is very large and well known in the deaf world. There are Leagues and camps all over the world including Poland, Italy, Croatia, Kenya, Germany, Slovakia, and many other countries. These are leages strictly for deaf kids who play basketball and learn to play with only deaf players. "The formation of DIBF Zones will ensure a good pace, growth and lifting the standards of deaf basketball, deaf referees and coaches around the world." (DIBF, 2006).

It's pretty amazing to be so passionate about basketball and have experienced a few classes of American Sign Language during my education and to find that there are actually a lot of connections between the two things. I never would have really thought that ASL would be so popular in the basketball world but in fact I see that Basketball is much more popular in the ASL world than I thought.


DIBF (2008, June 25) DIBF. European Zone. Retrieved 5, April. 2009:

Faraudo, Jeff (2009, March 18) College Basketball: Northridge's deaf player provides extra inspiration. Retrieved 5, April. 2009:

Groshans, Susan (2009, March 23) 0Around Pleasanton: Basketball coach gets the most from coaching the deaf. Retrieved 5, April. 2009:

By Derrick Kennedy
December 2, 2008

Since I was small I've always been a big basketball fan. One day while watching one of my favorite players (Labrone James), a halftime report came on highlighting the achievements of Lance Allred, the NBA's first deaf player ( With basketball being a game of team communication, I wondered how he was able to achieve this feat.

Before Allred concord the courts of the NBA, he was challenged on the courts of his high school and college. News spread fast about the 6- foot- 11 center who was deaf but still a dominate player on the court. After being recruited by Utah State, Allred resigned with Weber state ( With the assistance of an interpreter, Allred quickly learned to play o the next level.

After college, Allred was signed to a deal with the Stampede, a D-League team. There, Allred continued to overcome his deafness and stand out as a potential NBA draft pick. In his time with the Stampede, Allred "Averaged 16.2 points on .512 shooting, 10.0 rebounds and 1.4 assist in 29.6 minutes per game" ( With stats like that, Allred was well on his way to progressing to the NBA.

Gaining the notice of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, Allred was signed to a ten game contract in order to fill the roster for the upcoming games. Not only did he have very low odds of being retained by the Cavaliers, they were undoubtedly concerned with his deafness. Again, with the assistance of an interpreter, Allred was able to secure a second ten day contract and go on to be signed for the remained of the season.

During my spare time I like to play basketball to stay in shape. I often play at the school and at my apartment building where I live. Over the summer some of the residents and I were playing a pickup game of five-on-five when a seemingly shy and timid guy called next game. Someone informed me he was deaf in an attempt to dissuade me from picking him up. With my prior knowledge of Allred and his ability to play a team game and be deaf, I decided to pick him up anyway. Having taken sign 1 the spring before, I introduced myself and the other guys and the game was on.

To everyone's surprise, he was a one man wrecking crew. From his skill level I assumed he played organized basketball somewhere, either at school or in local leagues. I'm glad I knew the sign for pass because he forgot he had a team. Later I met his girlfriend and she interpreted for me as I spoke. I told him: "I know you're deaf, but you're blind, pass the ball a little more." We all laughed and went our separate ways.

Learning of Allred accomplishments and playing ball with the deaf guy at my apartment opened my eyes. It helped my see that anything is achievable, and I have no excuse for not following my dream. The things I take for granted like my hearing and speech, doesn't hold the deaf back one bit.


ASL and Basketball
By Jesus Jacques

Upon doing research on American Sign Language and basketball, I've come across some very interesting data. It seems as though the deaf community pursuing a athletic sport such as basketball comes with challenges of their own. For example, Lance Allred, hearing impaired NBA basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers had horrible childhood memories in regards to hearing impaired persecution. The obstacles he had to overcome were unbearable. Allred mentioned he had memories of his childhood that continues to haunt him today. He stated, "I grew up in a society where I was pretty much brainwashed,"… "When I was 5 years old and hearing impaired, I was told by a teacher that God had made me deaf as punishment because I wasn't faithful in a pre-existence. Who tells a 5-year-old kid that?" (Longshot, 2009).

 When I think of someone who has dealt with the challenges of adversity, I think of Lance Allred. As described in an abstract review by kirkus on Lance Allred's autobiography, Long Shot: The Adventures of a deaf Fundalmentalist Mormon Kid and his Journey to the NBA. "… he was the first legally deaf player in the league… His hard work was rewarded with a scholarship to play for the University of Utah, his favorite college team. That experience ended abruptly during his sophomore year, when verbally abusive coach Rick Majerus allegedly made disparaging remarks about Allred's handicap. After transferring to Weber State and battling his OCD, Allred completed his collegiate eligibility and became a basketball vagabond, accepting offers to play with professional teams in Turkey, France and Spain. Injuries, shady contracts and inconsistent playing dogged him at every stop, and he nearly threw in the towel before signing a $12,000 contract with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA's developmental league. All ended well when Allred impressed scouts and earned a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming a rookie in the NBA at age 27" (Longshot, 2009 vol.77, issue 5). Sometimes I wonder how we as a human race with great knowledge and experience of human diversity that we still make an effort to persecute others and refuse acceptance.

Another deaf basketball hero is Miha Zupan of Slovenian. In an article "Famous well known people with Hearing Impairments and Deafness" by Disabled World, a disability and seniors information community found at, he was the first ever to play basketball in the Euroleague and plays among the best in Europe. As a teenager, he had growing knee problems that kept him on the bench for several months; however, was still able to play to just under 20 national teams. (Disabled World, Feb. 18, 2008). Scott Tetzlaff, born deaf, is another courageous leader and hard worker who is a 21 year old basketball player for the Lincoln Land Community College basketball team. He went on for a year and a half to Gallaudet University, which is a four-year liberal arts school in Washington, D.C. for the deaf and hard of hearing. Tetzlaff wanted to return and play basketball for the Lincoln Land basketball team in Illinois so he contacted his coach Tony Johnson. Johnson stated, "He told me he wanted me to be on the team…He's got something to learn defensively, but he's a hustler…He dives on the floor for loose balls. I use him as an example sometimes. Tetzlaff added, "Life is short. You might as well take advantage of it." (Deaf Student Makes The Cut on College Basketball Team, Martinez, Marcia, 03/20/2000, Vol. 12, Issue 16). Tetzlaff is a true example for all communities when it comes to hard work and someone who is enjoying life to the fullest. Many people will encounter and have the privilege to meet great men and women in their lifetime. Lance Allred, Miha Zupan, and Scott Tetzlaff are among the great leaders who has done their part to reshape world's views of the deaf and hard of hearing in the world of basketball.

One of the deaf basketball organizations that caught my attention was the Arizona Desert Fire Basketball (AZDF) that was established in the spring of 1995 by a group of Deaf basketball players. The majority of them had college basketball experience. The goal was to create a team with the ability to compete in Men's Top Division basketball leagues ( The Farwest Athletic Association of the Deaf (FAAD) is another organization in which other deaf teams can compete with each other. The FAAD can be found by going to . Contacting FAAD is using done electronically. The deadline for turning in their registration and fees to both the USADB and FWDBA is February 1st.if they want to join for the January 15th. The team playing the MLK in Phoenix the January 18th-19th will also be able to accept registration, according to the FWDBA. Two other tournaments include the Regional tournament and the USA Deaf Basketball (USADB) National tournament. In 1999, there was the first USADB National tournament held in Phoenix, Arizona and it was sponsored in part by the Phoenix Suns at the Phoenix Civic Plaza. In addition, Sunnyslope High School supported AZDF for their first Regional tournament in Phoenix in 2003." The USADB can be found by going to and the Arizona Desert Fire Basketball can be found at


Martinez, Marcia. (2000). Deaf Students Makes the cut on college basketball team. Community College Week. Vol. 12 Issue 16, p9, 1/4p, CSUS library. EBSCOhost

Kirkus Reviews (2009). Longshot Vol. 77 Issue 5, p75-75, CSUS library. EBSCOhost,

Disabled World (2008). Famous Well Known People with Hearing Impairments and

Vicars, William. (2001, Jan. 4). Nonlinguistic communication. ASL University Library. Lifeprint Institute. Retrieved 12, Feb. 2001: <>.

Thursday, May 7, 2009
Anthony Thomas

I am very interested in how deaf people managed to play sports and actually be quite successful in it. So I chose to focus on one sport and I lean towards Basketball. Because when I play basketball it is a lot of communicating verbally, and I was not sure if you could be successful without voicing. So I searched "deaf basketball" and I found out they had a United States of America Deaf Basketball(USADB) league. And later found out that they had a whole federation for deaf athletes better known as the USA Deaf Sports Federation. Under this federation they have several sports which includes Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Soccer just to name a few. But I want to focus on the USADB, United States of America Deaf Basketball (USADB) is the premier national sports organization for deaf and hard of hearing basketball athletes and supporters. It was established in 1945 Akron, Ohio as the American Athletic Association of the Deaf (AAAD) by a small group of people who wanted to see formal basketball programs for deaf adults. USADB is host to an annual national men and women's basketball tournament that draws 28 teams and thousands of spectators from 8 different regions. USADB is also responsible for the development and training of the US men and women's national and development teams to represent to international competitions; as well as youth development programs which include boys and girl's elite camps and high school all-star national competition. There main mission or mission statement is a national basketball organization serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing athletes who desire to participate in organized sports activities. There are eight regional units sponsored by USADB which come together at annual national tournaments and summer basketball camps, thus to develop a sense of good sportsmanship, congeniality and leadership skills among interested and talented players. Participants for Deaf Olympics and International Basketball games are selected from the most promising players at these tournaments, to represent USADB internationally. After looking into this even further I see that they have playoffs just like the NBA would and they also have a USADB hall of fame which is amazing to see. I felt before that deaf communities would not have so an well known league dedicated to sports. Then I wanted to see if any deaf players ever made it to the NBA and there is only one. I googled "deaf NBA player" and found that Lance Allred is the 1st and only player to be deaf or hard of hearing to make it. He made it very recently, Lance Allred went through to get where he is now, the rest of his journey shouldn't be so difficult. Allred, a 27 year old, 6-11 center, signed a contract to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA. Allred's contract, signed on April 4 2008.


Osei Morris:  First Black Deaf to Play for a Professional Basketball Team

By Malcolm Odoh
April 5, 2009

Osei Morris

Every since I was a young child I have enjoyed the game of basketball, when I was four years old I remember watching Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson square off in the 1991 NBA finals. When attempting to find a subject for this assignment I decided to explore one of my passions (basketball). In my research of how basketball relates to the deaf community I came across the story of 25 year old Osei Morris, he was born Hard of Hearing, yet he and his profoundly deaf twin brother Adei, proudly say they are "Deaf" and don't look for excuses based upon him being hard of hearing. He and his brother have always desired to become professional basketball players and taught themselves to play by observing the game. They both played briefly at Gallaudet College for the Deaf in Washington, D.C. fortunately for them, there was a National Deaf Basketball League they joined and further developed their talents in an environment where all the players, coaches, referees and fans were deaf.

When playing in a deaf environment communication was done by using American Sign Language. This non-profit organization was created to encourage Deaf athletes to go beyond their physical challenges in the game of Basketball. Osei Morris was the Most Valuable Player in 2004. With his innate skill for playing basketball he signed with the LA Stars of the ABA, in his interaction with the team although he can read lips and voice some, he prefers use Sign Language. Osei is the first black deaf basketball player to play for a professional team. The LA Stars provides Osei with an interpreter at practices and at games and in fact, team members have already expressed interest in learning sign language to be able to communicate with him on the court better. Osei Morris feels he can do anything but hear, and is truly grateful for this extraordinary opportunity given by the LA Stars.

The LA Stars are excited about the attempt to bridge the gap between the Deaf and Hearing Worlds by welcoming the Deaf Community as fans. Sign language has been used to create a bond in the world of basketball in variety of ways not only in the case of deaf people but through the fundamental aspects of the game such as communication between players on the court and coaches who signal plays to attack opponent's defenses. The 2/3 zone in basketball is signaled by coaches in all leagues as a defensive strategy to stop opposing offenses. For most teams the signal for the 2/3 zone is communicated through American Sign Language. Sign Language has been a staple used in basketball and will forever be linked to each other due to the fundamental aspects of the game that make communication between coaches and players easier and more effective.


1.Bradley,James (2005) Our Sports Central (press release) - Marshfield, WI USA

2. Kent, Harris (2008) Deaf International Basketball. International Committee of Sports for the Deaf 12-14

3.Lyndon, Bruce (2005) Deaf Today. Deaf Athletes in Sports 90-94


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