NBA legends Steve Nash and Yao Ming to coach Halifax woman this weekend

Natalie Branscombe, a 26-year-old Halifax woman, is going to the Fifth Annual NBA Cares Special Olympics United Basketball Game this weekend in Toronto where she will be coached by NBA legends Steve Nash and Yao Ming.

Natalie Branscombe, 26, leaves for Toronto Thursday where she'll learn from Steve Nash, Yao Ming

Natalie Branscombe has been playing basketball since she was six-years-old. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

A 26-year-old Halifax woman will be the only North American woman and one of two Canadians participating in the fifth annual NBA Cares Special Olympics United Basketball Game this weekend.

Natalie Branscombe will be coached by NBA heavyweights like Steve Nash and Yao Ming.

"I'm living my dream right now. I feel like the celebrity," said Branscombe, who spent Wednesday afternoon shooting hoops at St. Andrews Community Centre. 

The NBA Cares Special Olympics United Basketball Game brings together players with and without intellectual disabilities to play as a team and highlight the Special Olympics.

The international event brings together 12 Special Olympics athletes from around the world to play a game under the supervision of some NBA and WNBA all-stars. 

Branscombe says someone at Special Olympics in Nova Scotia encouraged her to apply after hearing her speak at an event. 

"When I found out, I held my head and I was shocked because it was a long shot. There were so many people trying to get into this," she said.

Branscombe is six-foot-one-inch tall and has been playing basketball since she was six years old. She has a mild intellectual disability and although she used to play in regular sports, she says she didn't really start enjoying herself until she began playing with the Special Olympics.

"When I played regular sport, I would get judged and picked on and stuff. When I play Special Olympics, none of that happens. I feel like I can be myself, enjoy myself and have a good time," said Branscombe.

"I've made plenty of friends through Special Olympics. When I played regular sports, I didn't have many friends."

Branscombe's father, Doug, will be joining her this weekend. He coaches the Special Olympics basketball program in Halifax. He says they leave for Toronto on Thursday.

"Natalie's mom and I are pretty proud," he said.

"This is a pretty special opportunity. Once in a lifetime."

About the Author

Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.


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