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Wheelchair basketball as a sport, began in 1948 when World War II veterans began returning home. Unfortunately, many of the veterans were paralyzed causing them to remain in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. To keep themselves entertained, these veterans began trying a multitude of sports. Many started with ping-pong and pool, progressed to bowling and swimming, and finally made their way to softball and basketball teams. It wasn’t long before basketball became the #1 played wheelchair sport.
Within two years, the popularity of wheelchair basketball caught on, and six VA hospital teams were organized throughout the United States and games were hosted by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and. The PVA held three successful tournaments but was soon replaced by the new, highly competitive NWBA tournament. In the mid 1970’s, women teams began to emerge, creating a new era of wheelchair basketball.
At the time there was only one division- joining women were permitted to play on formerly all-male teams. However, between 1970 and 1990, a women’s division was created. By the 1991 NWBA tournaments consisted of eleven women’s teams, with six teams playing a regular schedule of games in the NWBA conferences.
The addition of a women’s division to the NWBA tournaments wasn’t the only major change for wheelchair basketball in 1991. In Fall of 1991, the Congress of USA Basketball voted to make the NWBA an active member in its organization. For the preceding eleven years the league was on the Associate member level of the Congress of USA Basketball. Even better was the fact that NWBA Commissioner, Stan Labanowich was appointed to the Congress of USA Basketball’s Board of Directors.
Wheelchair basketball has come a long way since its 1940’s beginnings. We are proud to say that National Wheelchair Basketball Association is experiencing worldwide popularity - and we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon! The next stop for NWBA - the Olympics!
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