Retirement Speech - Akako Tsubasa

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JWolfman
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Retirement Speech - Akako Tsubasa

Postby JWolfman » April 29th, 2018, 1:28 pm

My expectations for entering the FBA, the top elite of professional basketball, was rather low I have to admit. While I did well in Pack Territory University, I wasn’t a huge breakout star player for the team, and so when I decided to declare for the 2013 FBA Draft, it surprised a lot of people. Why shouldn’t they? Not only was I born legally deaf, I lost my entire hearing when I was ten years old. How would a deaf player communicate with their ‘normal hearing’ peers? Would I accidentally cause a foul if I continue to play even after a whistle plays? People asked me questions like those even as I sat waiting to see if a team would draft me into the FBA. So when the Baltimore Spirits chose me for their 42nd overall pick, I was so elated that I actually cried. After years of bullying and nay-sayers telling me that I can’t play basketball because I’m deaf, here I am… now a professional basketball player in the FBA.

I made FBA history that day, becoming the very first deaf player to be drafted into the FBA. But with that footnote in history came in a huge responsibility on my shoulders. I became more than just a player, as I also became a role model for the deaf community and their youth. When I’m not playing or spending time on my busy schedule with the Baltimore Spirits, Lexington Pioneers and then finally the Lorain Firestorm, I became involved with local charities spreading awareness about tinnitus, attended schools for inspirational speeches in front of hundreds and thousands of students, and finally became involved with the USA Deaf Basketball Association. I also became a spokesperson for the Canine Cochlear Implant Association after my own cochlear implant surgery changed my life. If it weren’t for the FBA, I wouldn’t be blessed to be involved with these organizations and the wonderful people that work for them.

The decision to retire from the FBA after five seasons was very difficult for me to make. Soon after the 2017 Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey, I was approached by the USA Deaf Basketball Association to help them promote and organize a FIBA-sanctioned deaf basketball league within North America. However they pointed out that if I choose to accept this challenge, I would need to devote much of my time for it, which would be impossible if I continue to play for the Lorain Firestorm. After months of internal debate, I reached back to the USDBA with my decision to accept their offered position.

I want to thank the Baltimore Spirits for their faith in my abilities when they drafted me, the Lexington Pioneers in the FBA D-League for helping me develop on how to adjust after my cochlear implant surgery, and the Lorain Firestorm for not only giving me a second chance of a FBA career but also taking my concerns about hearing disabilities affecting communities very seriously. I will move forward with the USDBA and I am very anxious to work full-time with them. I want to thank my parents who refused to let deafness pin me down, and they were always supportive of my dream to become a professional basketball player. I want to thank all of my fans, who were supportive for me even when I couldn’t hear or understand them. Much love to you all!

My message to deaf youth is the same as always: Deafness is not a disability unless you treat it as such. It can open new doors to dreams that you can achieve, but it is your responsibility to grab the door handle and open it in the first place.
Narkissa Kassius (TAL) - Akako Tsubasa (LOR) - Adam Tevela (QNS) - Yesina Selas (SAS) - Brad Pullman (TXS) - Shanice Alveres (FA) - Xavier Saffiren (WPG) - Greg Saffiren (WPG)

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