Here at Coastal Adaptive Sports, we offer wheelchair basketball in both recreational games and competitive leagues in North Myrtle Beach. To provide a deeper level of appreciation for this already well-loved sport, we’d like to illuminate the fascinating history of wheelchair basketball.

The Birth of Wheelchair Basketball: World War II

The first known wheelchair basketball games were played by World War II veterans in Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals throughout California. In 1947, the first game between two veteran wheelchair basketball teams took place at the Corona Naval Station.

Over the next two years, six wheelchair teams were formed to represent VA hospitals across the country as the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). Additional teams represented Boston, Chicago, Memphis, Richmond, and New York. By 1948, wheelchair basketball quickly became the most popular sport for those with disabilities.

The first official National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWBT) was organized in 1949 by NWBA Hall of Fame inductee, Tim Nugent, of the University of Illinois. This tournament included the Kansas City Pioneers, the first team to be formed outside of the VA hospital. The Pioneers would go on to be the first NWBT champions that year, with the St. Louis Rams winning the tournament for the next three years after.

Wheelchair Basketball Goes International

Wheelchair basketball went international when the Montreal Wheelchair Wonders team, formed by members of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, was invited to compete in the sixth NWBT in 1954. Following this major event, the Pan American Jets flew to England to participate in the International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1956. The U.S. wheelchair basketball team won the international championship that year.

The Expanding Structure of the NWBA

Over the years, as more teams were added and membership in the NWBA increased, so did the number of conferences and the way teams could qualify for the NWBT. The top two teams from each regional tournament advanced to the NWBT. In 1973, the qualifying structure changed even more to accommodate four sectional tournaments, so the top two teams from the regional tournament would move on to the sectional tournament, and the winner of each sectional tournament advanced to the NWBT final four.

Wheelchair basketball took off even further with the first intercollegiate game in 1970, the first intercollegiate tournament in 1977, and the formation of the Central Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Conference in 1978. The main goal of this new organization was to maintain the active membership of these student-athletes in the NWBA, while catering to their unique needs in the sport.

The Birth of Women’s Wheelchair Basketball

The origins of women’s wheelchair basketball started to take root in the mid-1960s. Since there was only a men’s division in the NWBA at the time, several women who played the sport in the U.S. competed alongside men in the Paralympic Games held in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1968.

The first wheelchair basketball game between two women’s teams in the U.S. took place in 1973 between the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University. In 1978, a women’s division was formed in the NWBA, and six teams competed in the first women’s national tournament at the University of Illinois.

Wheelchair Basketball Today

Wheelchair basketball and the NWBA have increasingly gained national recognition since 1991. Here’s how:

  • The NWBA has grown to more than 200 teams.
  • The NWBA became an associate member of the US Congress and an active member of USA Basketball.
  • There are now hundreds of wheelchair basketball teams in every continent.
  • There are also regularly scheduled international wheelchair games, including the Paralympic Games, the Pan American Games, the European Games, the South Pacific Games, the World Championships, and more.

Wheelchair Basketball at Coastal Adaptive Sports

Coastal Adaptive Sports offers wheelchair basketball for players looking for either more relaxed, recreational pickup games or more competitive play.

Recreational games are free and open to the public each week, with eight loaner basketball wheelchairs available if needed. These games are held at the North Myrtle Beach Aquatic & Fitness Center.

Coastal Adaptive Sports also sponsors our local competitive adaptive basketball team, The Coastal Chairmen, a Division 3 team in the Carolina Conference of the NWBA. Games are held at the Mary C. Canty Rec Center in Myrtle Beach on Saturdays during the season, which runs from August to April.