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History of Wheelchair Basketball



World War II veterans gave birth to wheelchair basketball in 1946. They played in Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals in Birmingham (CA) and Framingham (MA), as well as at the Corona Naval Station (CA) where World War II veterans were being treated for various degrees of paralysis. The Birmingham Report published an article on November 26, 1946, titled "Plegics Win Wheelchair Game, 16 to 6". The veterans competed against doctors who practiced at the Birmingham Hospital. In 1947 the Birmingham team traveled to the Corona Naval Station where they competed in the first match between two wheelchair basketball teams.

Within two years, six teams emerged representing VA hospitals across the US. National tournament were organized and hosted by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).

In 1948, the NWBA and the first official National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWBT) were organized by the NWBA pioneer and Hall-of-Fame inductee Tim Nugent of the University of Illinois. That same year, in a remarkable act of self-determination, the Birmingham VA Flying Wheels took to the air and challenged VA hospital teams throughout the US. Wheelchair basketball soon became the number one sport of individuals with disabilities.

Skylar lines up for a free throw line, her front two wheels over the line and the bigger, main wheels behind the line. six player line up, 3 on each side of the lane, to prepare for a rebound

Wheelchair Basketball Rules

Wheelchair basketball uses many of the same rules as its counterpart, but special rules accommodate dribbling and shooting from a wheelchair, as well as a classification system for a player's functional ability.

  • Dribbling

    • A player may push twice before either dribbling or passing the ball. If a player pushes three times without either dribbling or passing, it constitutes a traveling violation. There is no double dribble rule in wheelchair basketball.​

  • Shooting​

    • The height of the basketball hoop is 10 feet. Players use the regulation lines on the court for free throws and three point shots, with the added adjustment that the large wheels must be behind the line for the shot to count (the small front wheels may be over the line).​

Player Classification

Wheelchair basketball uses a functional classification system to balance player involvement of various disability levels.


Each player is evaluated and given a classification (or point value) that ranges from 1.0 to 4.5, increasing in half point increments. Players with more significant disabilities have a lower point value and players with less significant disabilities have a higher point value.


Teams must not go over 15.0 cumulative "points" when adding together the classifications of the five players on the court or a technical foul is assessed.

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