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30 Days Out: A Brief History of the NWBT

03/12/2018, 4:00pm CDT
By Pasha Zolfaghari

Today marks the official one month point before the start of the 2018 NWBT

With the 70th Annual National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical kicking off on April 12 in Louisville, KY, we are officially one month away from the largest wheelchair basketball tournament in the world. As teams from every Adult and Junior Division prepare to compete for a National Championship, it may be useful to learn a little about the history of the tournament itself.

World War II veterans gave birth to wheelchair basketball in 1946.  They played in Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals in Birmingham, CA and Framingham, MA, as well as at the Corona Naval Station, CA where World War II veterans were being treated for various degrees of paralysis. In 1947 the Birmingham team traveled to the Corona Naval Station where they competed in the first match between two wheelchair basketball teams.

In 1948, the NWBA and the first official National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWBT) were organized by the NWBA pioneer and Hall-of-Fame inductee Tim Nugent of the University of Illinois. In the very first NWBT championship in 1949, the Kansas City Rolling Pioneers defeated the Minneapolis Rolling Gophers with a final score of 27-16.

Although many women had been involved in the NWBA in the first few decades of its creation, it wasn’t until 1977 that a proposal to create a Women’s Division was submitted to the NWBA delegates by University of Illinois graduate student and future Hall-of-Fame inducted Bob Szyman. Following the approval of the proposal, six teams were formed. In 1978 these six teams competed in the national tournament, hosted by the University of Illinois.

Throughout the history of the NWBT, there have been many dynasties that dominated the tournament during their peaks. The following five teams were the most impressive of the dynasties to take over the Adult Division I tournament:

  1. St. Louis Rolling Rams: Three consecutive championships from 1950-1952
  2. Long Beach Flying Wheels: Five consecutive championships from 1960-1964
  3. Indianapolis Mustangs: Three consecutive championships from 1973-1975
  4. Casa Colina Condors: Seven championships from 1980-1990
  5. Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks: 15 championships since 1997


The 70th Annual National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical will be held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, from April 12-15. There will be a total of 96 teams represented by the NWBA Adult and Junior Divisions. The top 16 teams from each of the Adult Divisions (D-I, D-II, and D-III). The Junior Division will feature the top 16 ranked teams in Varsity and Prep divisions. In total, five National Championship trophies will be awarded. The Junior Varsity Division will also feature the National Invitational Tournament, with 16 teams rolling for a title.

Come be a part of history by celebrating 70 years of wheelchair basketball by cheering on the best teams in the nation. To purchase your ticket to the 2018 NWBT today, click here.

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