R.L. Whitaker is a one-armed basketball player. Nothing can stop inspiring shooting guard Robert Whitaker Jr. from getting buckets. How did Whitaker become the first one-armed professional basketball player in the world?
"I was in a tree and it knocked me out, I lost consciousness," he said. "The initial electrocution burnt my arm halfway up but electricity is like poison and it spreads. It went through my arm and came out of my right leg.
"By the time I got to the hospital, it had moved up my arm so they amputated it at the shoulder before it poisoned the rest of my body."
The accident has provided the drive and determination Whitaker takes with him every time he steps on the basketball court. He knows what people, especially opposing players, see or don't see before the game starts.
"I feel like that is my little advantage," he said. "I feel like every time I am on the court if they haven't seen me play they underestimate me. It is really my strength. By the time they realize I really can play it is a little too late by then."
Whitaker, who was left-hand dominant before the accident, said the process of learning to do everything with his right hand was "complicated." He said his brothers, sisters, and parents helped him adapt to life with one arm.
"When I was in the hospital and once I gained back consciousness and realized my arm was gone, my mom always says the first thing I was saying was 'when can I start playing ball,'" he said. "That was my main priority getting back on the court."
It was almost two years later when he finally started playing competitively again. "I just gradually started getting better," he said. "Just playing with my friends, my brothers I gradually got better."
The 31-year old Whitaker is a three-point marksman who has the ability and aggressiveness to drive and score, but that doesn't mean he hasn't had to show it over and over again.
Over the past five years, Whitaker has made numerous stops in different pro-am leagues around the nation and abroad. He has played basketball in Japan, California, and teams based out of Texas. He is currently participating in a tryout with Los Mochis of Mexico's Cipacoba League.