Kiss My Wheels

Compelling Look at What Motivates these Gifted Athletes to Push Themselves Beyond Their Disabilities on and off the Court

Film by Miguel Grunstein & Dale Kruzic Airs on Public Television in October 2003 (check local listings)

For Immediate Release 

Wilson Ling 415/356-8383 ext. 231
Randall Cole 415/356-8383 ext. 254 

"Not only is there more to life than basketball…there is more to basketball than basketball.” —Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach 

(San Francisco, CA)—You've never seen basketball like this! KISS MY WHEELS tells the story of the Zia Hot Shots, a diverse, co-ed group of adolescent athletes with physical disabilities that come together as New Mexico's nationally ranked junior wheelchair basketball team. Follow them on a season's journey of training, tournaments and possibly a national championship on Miguel Grunstein & Dale Kruzic's KISS MY WHEELS, airing on public television in October 2003 (check local listings). 

Told from the point of view of the players and their coach, KISS MY WHEELS is driven by the Zia Hot Shots' personalities, by their practices and tournaments around the country, and by their changing life circumstances as the season unfolds. The players bring a special meaning to the idea of teamwork: "This is the one place they go where they have wings,” says Hot Shot head coach Pat Murdoch. "Whatever it is, we can deal with it. It is not embarrassing, it is part of life.” 

And the Hot Shots have to deal with some thorny and difficult issues throughout the course of the season—from confronting bias and challenging stereotypes to illness and death. Along the way, viewers gain revealing insight into some of the players' personal histories. Assistant coach Burly talks about being teased and persecuted in school: "I was really pissed off at the entire universe until I was about fourteen.” But about wheelchair basketball she says, "This is what I was meant to do with my life.” Point guard Josh, a Native American from Zuni Pueblo, remarks that, "Getting out on the court was like being let out of prison.” Head coach Pat, also a wheelchair user, was told in school that he could never achieve his dream of being a trial lawyer because his appearance would be too distracting. Today, he's a uniquely compassionate district court judge. His bond with his players is clearly a major influence in their lives—on and off the court. His commitment to them is palpable, particularly when he acknowledges the pain of knowing that he "can't always fix it for them.” Born in India, team captain Muthu was abandoned at the roadside by her mother, who had 12 other children to support. She was adopted by an American couple while living in Indian orphanages which lacked the ability to meet the needs of a disabled child. Early in the basketball season, Muthu finds out that she needs a kidney transplant. After six years with the Hot Shots, she is clearly the soul of the team, and her promise at the beginning of the season that "I can get you guys to nationals, but you're on your own from there,” provides, in an unexpected and moving way, the mission that drives the team. 

KISS MY WHEELS shows the Hot Shots basking in authentic acceptance and support. The film captures their collective energy and their individual potential. This is their court now. This is their game. Here they don't stick out. They are not the different ones. These gifted athletes challenge earth's gravity with the physics of the wheel, and they defy society's gravity with the beauty and power of their sport. In both cases, they win. 


Zia Hot Shots 2000-2001 Team Roster (in order of appearance): 
Muthu Barry - Team captain
Sebastian "Shaq" Rael - Assistant coach
Kim "Burly" Mayhew - Assistant coach
Jesse Pride - Team Co-captain, Forward
Josh Bellson - Point guard
Albert S. Pat Murdoch - Head coach
Sydney McCallister - Guard
Aex Grunstein - Forward
Evan Ullrich - Forward
Christina A. Davidson - Forward
Kerry C. Bissell - Assistant team manager
Katie Connors - Guard
Joseph Grant - Center 

About ITVS 
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the web and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.


Posted on October 8, 2003