With the popularity of wheelchair basketball today, you’d never guess it only began in the 1940s. How did the sport begin, and how did it make its way to an international level? Let’s take a look back at the history of wheelchair basketball.
Wheelchair basketball today is a prominent sport played by many on an international level. Its roots are quite new though, with it first originating in the 1940s through disabled veterans.
The first signs of wheelchair basketball emerge. The first adaptive sport, called wheelchair netball, began in 1944 in England at a hospital rehabilitation program.
Wheelchair basketball as we know it began to emerge. It was played at the 1956 International Stoke-Mandeville games where the U.S. Pan Am Jets took first place.
In 1960, the first Paralympic Games took place in Rome, Italy. Only four countries competed, playing wheelchair basketball as one of eight sports.
Later in the decade, women’s wheelchair basketball debuted at the 1968 Paralympic games in Tel Aviv. Nine countries participated and U.S. women’s team won silver.
1970s – 1990s
In 1975, the first World Championship for wheelchair basketball was held in Bruges, Belgium. Eleven men’s teams competed from countries in North America, Asia, and Europe.
Fast forward to 1990, and the first World Championship for women was held in Etienne, France.
2000s and Present
Now, wheelchair basketball is played in over 80 countries, and the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) has over 200 teams throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Since those first Paralympic Games in 1960, the U.S. has won 19 medals in wheelchair basketball, including 10 golds.
Canada has been climbing in the rankings, too. They’ve held the first or second spot in wheelchair basketball since the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona and now have six gold medals in the sport.
The reach of wheelchair basketball is growing. More children are beginning to play the sport. Even adults who do not need to use a wheelchair for everyday life but who are kept from playing basketball due to knee or hip injuries have begun playing.
Are you interested in playing wheelchair basketball, or looking for a new chair? Check out our currently available chairs here.