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A History of Wheelchair Basketball

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This is another throwback.  This time we take you back to 2013, when we were preparing for our 2nd Annual Abilities Tip-Off:

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In keeping with the theme of our upcoming event, the Second Annual Abilities Tip Off, we thought it would be cool to discuss the history of wheelchair basketball.  Basketball is one of the most well-developed sports for wheelchair users in the United States, and with good reason.  It has been played for over 60 years.  Here’s a look at the story:

At the end of WWII, many veterans returning from the fronts in Europe were left paralyzed, or confined to wheelchairs as a result of injuries that they sustained.  Many where left frustrated, lacking an outlet for pent-up energy.

What better way to release this energy than to participate in sports?  Many veterans began to play pool, ping-pong, and catch.  Soon participation extended to bowling, swimming, volleyball, water-polo, softball, touch football, and basketball.

In 1946, the California Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America played the first match of wheelchair basketball.  Two weeks later the New England Chapter held a match.  Before long, wheelchair basketball spread across the nation to VA hospitals in Boston, Chicago, Memphis, Richmond and New York. The sport eventually spread across the border to Canada and across the ocean to England.

By 1948 there were six teams in the United States, all members of the PVA and all functioning from VA hospitals.

The first wheelchair basketball team outside of a VA hospital was the Kansas City Wheelchair Bulldozers.

NWBA:

In April of 1949, a group of University of Illinois students, working under the inspired and tireless efforts of Tim Nugent, Director of Rehabilitation, formed the first National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament. That was the beginning of the sport as we know it today.  Earlier wheelchair tournaments, held by the PVA, were only open to paraplegic or spinal cord injured veterans.  The newer NWB Tournament was more inclusive and allowed for the participation of civilians with injuries.

At first, the organization only included men, but in 1974 women began to be included in tournaments and regular game-play on men’s teams, and later in a women’s division.

And the organization continues to push forward.  In the fall of 1991, the Congress of USA Basketball voted to admit the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) as an active member, following eleven years as an Associate Member. Appointed to the Board of Directors was the NWBA Commissioner, Stan Labanowich. The action represented a significant advance in the integration of the sport into the national governing body.

Rules of the Game:

The rules of wheelchair basketball are very similar to the basic rules of basketball.  Here are the main points:

  • The court is the same size, the basket is at the same height, and the scoring is identical: two points for a regular shot from open play, one point for each successful free throw and three points for a shot from behind the three point line.
  • Players move the ball around the court by passing or dribbling, and are required to throw or bounce the ball after every two pushes of the wheels on their chairs to avoid being penalised for travelling.
  • There are 12 players in each team, with no more than five on court.
  • Games last for 40 minutes, split into four 10-minute quarters. The clock stops for every break in play and teams can call time-outs which last one minute.

So there you have it.  A quick look at a sport that is fast, fun to play, and entertaining to watch.

*Some information for this post was cited from www.nwba.org. Click this link for more information.