Wheels Up: Bringing Back Basketball to Chaffee Park in Sunnyside

By Eric Heinz

“Everyone deserves a full basketball court.”

That adage led Michael Murphy to restore part of the one at Chaffee Park in the Sunnyside neighborhood. The old hoops had deteriorated and one of the backboards was completely gone.

“I think that one was old, and this one was just non-existent for quite a while, at least a year,” Murphy said, referring to the hoops. “I’m in a position where I can help the community a little bit, and I was like, why not?”

Although the city owns the court, Murphy said he wanted to speed up the process and get the court restored as soon as possible. Also, he has more motivation to get out to the park these days.

Michael Murphy plays in a game of horse against
Denver Parks and Recreation officials on May 26 at
Chaffee Park. Photos by Eric Heinz

“I come out here quite a bit, and I’m recently a new father,” Murphy said. “I have a 2-year-old son now and he’s getting into all the sports and stuff, and we love to come to this park.”

Murphy’s legs were paralyzed in 2007 when he was a junior in college in Virginia, playing two collegiate sports.

“I was planning on going to the Marine Corps to be an officer, and it was just one Saturday night,” he said. “I was on a rooftop and lost my balance and I fell flat on my back and severed my spine.”

The injury hasn’t deterred his spirits, especially not at Chaffee Park on May 26, when a small gathering of Denver Parks and Recreation staff and Councilwoman Amanda P. Sandoval attended to acknowledge the donation and the restoration of the hoops.

“I’m a T-9 paraplegic, and it’s been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me,” Murphy said, adding that’s what led him to meeting his wife, Casey, who was in school for physical therapy at the time.

Murphy said the accident also gave him a new outlook on life.

“It’s provided a ton of clarity for me and perspective. It’s helped me realize I have a lot of people and support around me,” he said. “It’s helped me realize how truly strong and capable I am. It’s also opened a ton of doors in terms of adaptive sports.”

Murphy is part of the International Paralympic Committee and participates in alpine skiing. He said he picked up other adaptive sports shortly after his fall, particularly cycling.

Sports have “pretty much been keystone for my entire life since T-ball,” Murphy said. “I come from a really competitive family. My brother and sister played sports in college, and for me … I love the competition, I love the camaraderie, the teamwork, everything about it.”


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