On May 2, AJ Davis logged 29 points and 8 rebounds for The Basketball League’s Columbus Condors, his best all-around performance of the young season.
He wouldn’t appear in another game until July 18, when he was announced as a starter for The Founding Fathers in The Basketball Tournament, taking the floor in a wheelchair.
At tip-off, the ball was intentionally knocked out of bounds, allowing time for the two teams and fans at the arena to shower Davis with applause. He was stopped several times by players on the opposing team as he made his way back to the bench, shaking hands with each as they honored him for his tremendous display of courage and willpower.
Just days after appearing in that May contest — what would unknowingly be his final game of the year for the Condors — Davis was involved in a serious car accident.
The former James Madison standout had pulled off the interstate and was getting groceries out of his car for a homeless person when he was struck from behind by another vehicle.
“AJ impresses me every day,” Wakefield said. “ Nothing has changed about my brother, he’s still loving, caring, goofy and demanding… Every day we’re amazed at how well he’s doing and his independence.”
Davis crawled to the front seat of his car to check on his daughter, who was able to call her mother. Davis remained in the front seat, praying and waiting for emergency transport to arrive.
Davis survived but had to have both of his legs amputated.
“[I] have trust in God and my family,” Davis said, reflecting on the event in August. “Without them and him, I don’t know how I would have made it… Just keeping me in high spirits, to continuing to live like nothing ever happened.”
Overcoming the Odds
Davis’ sister, Adrienne Wakefield, has been a close aide in her brother’s recovery. She arrived at the hospital shortly after the incident and was shocked to hear the news, but she’s been amazed with the way Davis has remained resilient and fought to overcome the odds.
“I remember hearing his voice for the first time after the accident,” Wakefield said. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘I’m not going to let this hold me back.’ He really hasn’t.”
For many, such an incident would mark the end of any pursuit of a career in athletics. Not only is the path to recovery difficult, but the number of opportunities significantly dwindles.
However, these obstacles haven’t gotten in the way of Davis’ dreams, nor have they caused his ever-optimistic attitude to sour.
“AJ impresses me every day,” Wakefield said. “I see and hear his voice, and it doesn’t even register to me that his legs are gone. Nothing has changed about my brother, he’s still loving, caring, goofy and demanding… Every day we’re amazed at how well he’s doing and his independence.”
Although he’s unsure when he’ll be able to play professional basketball again, Davis says he still wants to compete and will do whatever it takes to get back on the court. As of now, quitting simply isn’t an option.
Far From the End
Basketball has taken Davis just about everywhere in life. He first made a name for himself in high school, earning First Team All-City and All-District honors as a senior at Linden-McKinley in Columbus, Ohio.
Davis then received an offer to play collegiate basketball at the University of Wyoming, where he stayed for two years. He transferred to James Madison University after his sophomore campaign, when he truly began to shine.
In his final two years of eligibility, Davis averaged a combined 14.0 points per game and helped lead James Madison to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly 20 years.
Following a few stints in the NBA D-League, appearances in Canada, and a year overseas in Iraq, Davis returned to Columbus, where he played in a total of 15 games for the Condors.
“I’m still trying to find a way to get out there and play,” Davis said. “Basketball means everything to me. That’s how I was making a living and providing for my daughter and my family.”
Now, the city of Columbus is rooting for Davis in a different way, providing him with financial support via The AJ Support Fund, a GoFundMe created by his family. Donations have poured in from near and far as Davis’ story has circulated.
“The GoFundMe was created to be a safe place for people to donate,” Wakefield said. “When the news broke to everyone, we received a lot of offers to help in any way possible, especially with medical bills… To make things easier, the family decided to start that, which has been great with the start of his prosthetics.”
Davis feels thankful for all the support he’s gotten from his community, to which he credits for helping him find himself.
“My community means a lot to me,” Davis said. “It molded me into the man I am today and taught me so many lessons and blessings I’m forever grateful for and things I will carry on with me.”