Donkey basketball game raises money for cancer society

Rick Ashby looks to pass the ball to his teammate Andy Bath during Sunday’s game of donkey basketball at the high school gym. (Garrett Estrada photo)

Rick Ashby looks to pass the ball to his teammate Andy Bath during Sunday’s game of donkey basketball at the high school gym. (Garrett Estrada photo)

On paper, it sounds like a regular basketball game. Two teams, each with five players on the floor try to put a basketball through the hoop to score points. Only problem is, most of those players are riding on the back of a donkey. Put on by the Untamed Optionz Relay for Life team, donkey basketball made it’s triumphant return to Ely. The event, which raised $2424 for the American Cancer Society, was a big hit according to organizer Breeann Christensen.

“We were floored at the outcome. It was just awesome,” Christensen said.

Andy Bath goes for a layup during a game of donkey basketball.

Andy Bath goes for a layup during a game of donkey basketball.

Held inside the White Pine High School gymnasium on Sunday, members of the community gathered to compete in the familiar game with a four-legged twist.

Local pharmacist Andy Bath was one of those competitors during the first quarter of play (new teams were formed after each 10 minute quarter.)

“I had never ridden a donkey before. They were pretty well trained in their basketball, probably more than I was,” Bath said with a laugh.

He, alongside many others, found out the hard way that making a layup or a shot from downtown is not as easy as it looks when a donkey is involved.

“You can’t control them as much as you think you can,” Bath said.

That might have been due to the seven other donkeys on the court at the same time. The animals were guided in circles under the hoop by the two referees who also served as “pooper scoopers” when the need arose. Whenever someone lost control of the ball, riders would hop off and have to drag their donkey by the reigns to try and regain control. Each team also had a fifth “player” that would keep a foot inside the court’s center circle and help make passes to fellow teammates.

Christensen said she got the idea after seeing a similar fundraiser in Lund.

“The response we got from a lot of people when we first told them what we were planning was that they weren’t good at or didn’t know how to play basketball. But when they got out there on the court they had a blast,” Christensen said.

The success of the fundraiser has already got the Untamed Optionz Relay for Life team excited for next year, and there might even be a new sport with donkeys.

“Donkey baseball, it could happen,” she said.