What is ‘3 in lock’? Why are “lowpointers” valuable? And which IPC president starred in the 5 Paralympic Games in wheelchair basketball? Here’s what you need to know about one of the most popular sports in the Paralympics.
1. Wheelchair basketball is one of the oldest Para sports in the world and was one of the “original eight” at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960 (photo below). In Tel Aviv 1968 a women’s tournament was added.
World War II veterans in the United States began practicing it in 1945, while Ludwig Guttman – the father of the Paralympics – was also adapting the game for his rehabilitation program in England at about the same time.
The sport appeared at the second Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games in 1947, the American National Wheelchair Basketball Association was founded in 1949, and. The first World Championships were held almost 50 years ago, in 1973.
2. Sir Philip Craven, former President of the IPC, was Great Britain’s star at that first World Championship and helped lead the team to gold. He then competed in five consecutive Paralympics between 1972 and 1988.
3. Canada has dominated the last few men’s Paralympics tournaments, having reached the final in four of the last five Paralympics. Led by Patrick Anderson (pictured) – often considered the greatest player in the history of the sport – the team won Paralympic gold in 2000, 2004 and 2012.
The United States has been the most dominant women’s team, winning four Paralympic titles in total, with the 2016 Rio gold being the third in the last four tournaments. The team appeared to be rising to the occasion at the Paralympics, having won just two world titles, losing to rivals Canada four times in a row between 1994 and 2006.
4. Players must dribble or pass to move the ball around the field by passing or dribbling. Perhaps the biggest difference from the standing version is the scrolling rules. Wheelchair athletes must pass or dribble after every two thrusts in their wheelchair to avoid penalties for displacement.
Also, there is no double dribbling rule in wheelchair basketball. A player can dribble, put the ball on his lap to receive two thrusts, and dribble again.
5. Another unique element of wheelchair basketball is that teams feature players from different sports classes at the same time.
Players are rated on a scale of 1.0 to 4.5 according to their functional ability, from 1.0 for the player with the lowest physical function (“low index”) to 4.5 for the highest physical function (“high index”).
A team can only have 14 points among 5 players on the field at a time.
6. Lowpointer versus highpointer – A common strategy in the game is to see the lowpointer try to filter or block the opponent’s highpointer, thereby allowing the highpointer’s teammate more room to move against an opponent with more limited moves.
7. Wheelchair basketball is a contact sport. The sport is so fast that it’s hard to stop in time, which means contact is unavoidable and can lead to some spectacular crashes.
While contact is allowed, and even encouraged, head-on collisions are strictly prohibited and may result in a technical violation or even expulsion from the game.
8. Wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular Para sports in the world.
Hundreds of thousands of people practice this sport in more than 100 countries around the world.
9. The popularity of this sport means there are players who can make a living professionally. There are professional leagues all over the world, from Australia and Asia to Europe and America. The UK plans to launch a professional women’s league in 2022.
In Europe there is even the Champions League (and three lower tier tournaments) for the best teams on the continent. Germany’s RSV Lahn-Dill won a seventh title, a record, in 2021, ahead of Turkey’s Galatasaray and Netherlands’ Verkerk BC (5 each).
10. Wheelchair basketball will be played at two venues in Tokyo. The preliminary round will be split between the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza, with over 10,000 seats, and the Ariake Arena, with over 12,000 seats, which will host the playoffs.
Yoyogi National Gymnasium, the venue for wheelchair basketball at the second Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 1964, will host badminton and wheelchair rugby in Tokyo 2020.