Through Unified Sports, athletes with and without intellectual disabilities often discover that they have more in common than they initially realized. Basketball is that bond for Lompoc High School and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games teammates Ricardo Cortez and Jeffrey Ray.
They both even enjoy watching NBA superstar LeBron James, an athlete who has openly advocated for the importance of equality. Teams like the one Ricardo and Jeffrey play on represent a step in the right direction to promote an inclusive environment.
Ricardo is part of Special Olympics Southern California’s School Games program, which he’s participated in since 2015. The two are among the 66 Special Olympics Southern California athletes headed to Seattle in July.
Ricardo is not only grateful for the opportunity to play basketball, but the friends he’s gained through being involved with Special Olympics. Among them is Jeffrey.
“He’s great,” Ricardo said.
The benefits of the friendship goes both ways, Jeffrey added. On days Ricardo needs a little motivation to get on the court, Jeffrey is there to push him.
With a little patience and communication, Jeffrey has learned how to gradually get Ricardo in the proper mindset.
“Deep down inside he likes to play,” Jeffrey said.
Get to know the both of them a little more: