Mike Simmel (“Mighty Mike”) was the featured dribbler for the Harlem Wizards professional entertainment basketball team from 2001-2014. He is also one of nearly 3 million Americans currently living with epilepsy.
Standing only 5’9”, Mike has used his God-given gifts and work ethic to make his dreams in basketball come true despite his many setbacks. A 1996 graduate of Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, NJ), Mike was an honor-roll student, three-year varsity starter, and standout point guard, winning all-league honors. He was captain of the team as a senior. Mike spent a postgraduate year at the Hun School of Princeton and led the team in assists. Despite a few seizures during this time, Mike was able to graduate from Purchase College (SUNY), where he was a two-year team captain while leading the team in both assists and steals.
The former New York Knicks ball-boy has performed in front of crowds both big and small, from the stage of the Apollo Theater broadcast live on NBC television (It’s Showtime at the Apollo) to pro and college halftimes, as well as at special events all over the country, including the 2009 Men’s NCAA Final Four Fan Festival and the NBA’s Rhythm n’ Rims Fan Festival. Since 1998, Mike has lectured and performed at nearly 450 basketball camps including UCONN, Georgia Tech, Seton Hall, Boston College, and Villanova.
In 2005, Mike created the Bounce Out the Stigma Project to help empower young people and educate the public. The name refers to Mike almost being “bounced” out of a basketball camp at age 16 for having a seizure. The staples of the project, Mike’s signature summer basketball camps and in-year clinics for children with special needs, have grown tremendously and are now servicing hundreds of campers with programs in more than 12 states throughout the country. His goal is to reach as many children as possible through basketball empowerment and his brand of basketball fun, and to teach and entertain kids and show them that there are no limits.
Mike co-wrote a children’s book based on his childhood growing up with epilepsy, entitled Mighty Mike Bounces Back, which was published by Magination Press, an imprint of the American Psychological Association, in October 2011.
Mike serves as a national spokesman for epilepsy and has spoken on behalf of the Epilepsy Foundation and its affiliates at many events and youth camps across the country. He was also selected as the national spokesman for Eisai Pharmaceuticals (2004-2006) and its Changing Faces of Epilepsy campaign, as well as Abbott Laboratories (2006-07) and its campaign for children’s epilepsy awareness. In 2013, Mike was named as one of the national ambassadors for the Epilepsy Foundation’s Athletes vs. Epilepsy initiative.
Awards and Honors:
In 2002, Mike was given the Pepsi Sports Award by RNN News for his motivational work. During the summer of August 2007, he was honored by Exceptional Parent magazine for his work with the special needs community in front of more than 50,000 fans at Yankee Stadium during Disability Awareness Night.
In May 2009, Mike was presented with the New Jersey Governor’s Recreation and Commission on Individuals for Disabilities Award for Exemplary Lifestyle and Education Award during a special luncheon. The state of Connecticut’s JAYCEES also honored him in 2009 with its Connecticut Outstanding Young American Award. He was presented with the prestigious 71st annual Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA) Award by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce in September 2009. Previous winners include presidents, politicians, humanitarians, astronauts, dignitaries, service men and women, entertainers, and famous athletes. In May 2013, Mike was honored by the Children’s Hospital of Montefiore with its Good Citizenship Award for his work with special needs children and in the community. In 2014, Mike was honored with the Kentucky Colonel by the governor of Kentucky for his work with children and the community.