What is the attraction of wheelchair basketball?

Perhaps it's because I draw Real, but many people ask me what the attraction of wheelchair basketball is.

How far can a person push themself, given a body with limited function? I think being able to see how far that can be taken is a big attraction.



In wheelchair basketball, players are assigned points based on how much functionality their bodies have left.

The extent of an injury varies from person to person, and even with paralysis from a spinal cord injury, the extent of the paralysis varies with where the injury occured in the spinal column.

For instance, if the damage is to the lumbar vertabrae, then both legs will be paralyzed. If it's higher, above the thoracic vertabrae, then the abdominal and spinal muscles will also be paralyzed.

Starting with those who have lost the most functionality, the 8 point categories that athletes are assigned to are, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5. The sum of all 5 players on the court have to be within 14 points. Athletes with a lower number of points (those with less functionality) are called "low pointers", those with more are called "high pointers".

The high pointers are usually the ones who score the most points and always get the rebounds. I always watch in admiration as they sink beautiful shots while sitting in a chair in the middle of such intense movement. I can't understand how they can continue to make 3 pointers when I'm amazed at how their shots can even travel that distance.

It's not hard for people with healthy bodies, who have been exposed to basketball in gym class or who have played on a team, to look at the shooting, rebounding and chair skills of these athletes and see how amazing they are.

On the other hand, it's hard to see the skills that the low pointers bring, either through their numbers or their play. Unless you have some knowledge of the game, it's hard to see. In other words, if your eyes get drawn to what the low pointers are doing, then you can be called something of an expert.


But even without a lot of knowledge, if you use your imagination just a bit your perspective will change. Of course, your imagination is based on your own experiences and your own physical senses, but try to imagine different assumptions, different bodies.

If you can't use your abdominal or spinal muscles, then you can't support your torso. In that state, you have to support your body with your arms, as well as support your heavy head, balance all that, then operate the wheelchair, catch a pass, pass the ball, shoot the ball, race the wheelchair around, play defense, chase after loose balls, block your opponents, make space for your teammates...

The low pointer athletes, with their abdominal and spinal muscle paralyzed bodies, do everything needed to play basketball at that speed.

What can people do with a physically limited body?

On second thought, can't you ask that about any sport?


There are 175 cm athletes playing in the NBA where the average height is 2 meters.

They have to attack the large 216 cm guys with speed.

Slow athletes, athletes who can't jump, those who aren't accurate, those who are clumsy.

Every person's abilties are limited.

No person can fly yet.

Just as you get chills watching Usain Bolt run, I get chills watching a wheelchair basketball low pointer grab a loose ball.

I think we, as humans, take pride in, and have a strong admiration for those who take the body they are given and use it to the fullest extent of its limits.


Takehiko Inoue
2 September 2012