Competition at the Highest Levels

Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair basketball is one of the biggest draws at the Paralympic Games. The game is played five-on-five, on standard-sized courts with standard, 10-foot hoops.

The rules are similar to able-bodied basketball, with a few changes to accommodate wheelchairs in the game. An example is the “travelling” rule: in wheelchair basketball, athletes cannot touch their wheels more than twice after receiving or dribbling the ball before they pass or shoot.

As in other Paralympic sports, men and women of varying disabilities are eligible to play. Athletes are categorized numerically according to their ability to maneuver and shoot -- from 1.0 (athletes with limited functions) to 4.5 (athletes with greater abilities.) Teams cannot exceed 14 points on the court, so strategic use of athletes with different abilities is part of the competition.

Wheelchair basketball is an intense contact sport. Athletes know they must be fast, strong, and ready to get hurt.

Top Contenders:
• Top rivals in both men’s and women’s competitions are Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and the U.S.A.
• The U.S. women’s team won gold in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games. The U.S. men’s team is eager to avenge its medal-less performance in Beijing, and showed it by winning gold at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Paul Schulte is a key player for Team USA, contributing 16 points to the Parapan win.

Paralympics 2012 Competition: Aug. 30 – Sept. 8

Athlete Classifications

To be eligible to play basketball, athletes must be physically capable of propelling a manual wheelchair with their arms and have a disability in one or both legs.

Athletes are grouped by their ability to maneuver, hold the ball, and shoot. Numbers start at 1.0 for athletes with limited functions, and rise to 4.5 for athletes with greater functionality on the court.

The total points for all five athletes on the floor can be no more than 14 at a time. If an athlete with a higher rating is inserted into play, another with lower ratings may also need to replace a teammate.

Back To Sports

More From PBS