NBA

Rodney Rogers, Paralyzed From the Shoulders Down, Is Still Ever the Optimist

Rodney Rogers has always overcome the odds. Rogers, a former ACC Rookie and Player of the Year at Wake Forest University and a 12-year NBA veteran with the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Phoenix Suns among others, was paralyzed from the shoulders down in a 2008 dirt bike accident. Rogers has been unable to walk since the incident, but his past is helping him keep the faith that his time will come.

Rodney Rogers’ early years

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Rodney Rogers never knew his father as he left the family when Rodgers was a toddler. Rogers was raised by his mother, who was seriously injured in an automobile accident in 1988. Rodgers was forced to move in with his youth coach while his mother was recovering. His birth father died when Rogers was 7 years old and his step-father died of lung cancer in 1990.

Rogers grew up in a crime-infested area that was loaded with drug dealers. Rogers managed to stay away from the drugs. “It’s just something you’ve got to be strong enough to say, ‘I’m not going to mess with it,'” Rogers said when he was at Wake Forest, according to the Independent Tribune. “You’ve got to have priorities. You’ve got to know what you want to do in life. You see other guys who were right there at the time — and one little mistake and they blew it. So you say to yourself, ‘If I ever get to that point, I’m not going to blow it.'”

Growing up in North Carolina, Rogers attended Hillside High School in Durham and was nicknamed the “Durham Bull” for his size and strength. In 1990, Roger was named North Carolina’s Player of the Year. As a senior, he was also named a McDonald’s All-American. He chose to remain in North Carolina to play his college basketball, settling in at Wake Forest.

Rogers’ Wake Forest and NBA careers

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In 1991, Rodney Rogers was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for Wake Forest. In his three-year stretch at Wake, Rogers averaged 19.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest. In 1993, Rogers was named ACC Player of the Year, scoring 21.2 points and pulling down 7.4 rebounds a game. Wake Forest retired his No. 54 jersey in 1996.

Rogers was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in the 1993 NBA draft. Denver selected the 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward with the ninth overall pick. Rogers played just two seasons in Denver before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in the summer of 1995. He spent four seasons in LA and had his best year during the 1997-98 season when he averaged a career-high 15.1 points per game.

Rogers went on to play 12 seasons in the league, also playing for the Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, and Philadelphia 76ers. For his career, Rogers averaged 10.9 points per game and made better than $26 million.

The accident and his positive outlook

On Nov. 28, 2008, three years after his NBA career was over, Rogers was in a dirt bike accident that changed his life completely. Rogers flipped over the handlebars and is paralyzed from the shoulders down. According to an article in Winston-Salem Monthly, doctors have given him a five percent chance of walking again.

Despite the grim chances, Rogers knows he’s one of the fortunate ones. When he was in the hospital, he looked around and saw others faced with the same outlook. “I saw a lot of kids and adults who didn’t have the means to afford the things they needed,” Rogers told Winston-Salem Monthly in October. “Some of them passed away because they didn’t have the money.”

Rogers admits when he was first in a wheelchair, he wanted to be out of the spotlight. That has since changed. He has a purpose. “I never wanted to go outside, I didn’t want anybody to see me in a wheelchair,” Rogers said to WMFY News. “I can’t take care of my wife like I want to, I can’t hold her in my arms, I can’t hold her hand and stuff like that. Sometimes, it makes you feel less than a man.

“I think God kept me here for a reason,” he said. “I really just think that he wants me to really work with kids or make kids better and show them that, no matter where you come from, no matter what you do, you can always be successful.”