Wheelchair Basketball

Learn about this Summer Paralympic sport

April 27, 2012

United States' Jeremy Lade (center) is challenged by Patrick Anderson (left) and Jamie Borisoff (right), of Canada, during a wheelchair basketball semi-final match at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.

U.S. World War II veterans created the game of wheelchair basketball as part of a rehabilitation program for disabled soldiers. Now played in more than 80 countries, it is one of the most popular events in the Paralympic Games. The sport made its debut at the first Paralympic Games in Rome, in 1960. The women’s competition was added to the program at the 1968 Tel Aviv Games in Israel.

Rules of the Games

Twelve teams compete in the men’s competition and 10 teams compete in the women’s. Each team is made up of five players and seven substitutes. Each player is given a point value based on his or her physical disability. The player with the least physical ability is assigned a 1.0-point value. The person with the most is assigned a 4.5-point value. During a game, the total on-court value for each team of five players cannot top 14 points.

Wheelchair basketball is similar its Olympic counterpart. The court size is the same at 28 meters long and 15 meters wide. The basket stands at the same height at 3.05 meters tall. And scoring is also the same, with one-point, two-point and three-point shots. Players move the ball by dribbling or passing, and must throw or bounce the ball after every two pushes of the wheels on their chairs. Each game lasts 40 minutes and is split into four 10-minute quarters.

At the start of the tournament, the teams are divided into two groups. The top four teams in each group qualify for the quarterfinals. From there, the tournaments are played in a knockout format until the top two teams advance to the finals to compete for the gold medal.


Click here to read about wheelchair tennis at the Paralympic Games.

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