One of the main factors that makes basketball fun to watch and play is that (most of the time) it is a high-scoring game. Even when there is a blowout, fans wonder how many points the winning team is going to score.
This notion is evident in both the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio this year. In both worldwide sporting events, the U.S.A. Men’s basketball team and Men’s wheelchair basketball team have dominated their competition.
The U.S.A. Men’s Paralympic wheelchair basketball team is just as dominate. However, there are a few games (as illustrated in this PDF file posted by the staff of the Rio Paralymics here) where the final score did not necessarily reflect a high-scoring game. Just recently, on September 14th, according to the website of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, the U.S.A. beat the Netherlands with a score of 70-37 — it was a dominate showing by the U.S.A. wheelchair basketball team — but it is not 119 points.
Naturally, the question of why there is such a disparity between scoring in able-bodied basketball and wheelchair basketball arises. Are wheelchair basketball players not as good or skilled as their able-bodied counterparts?
In order to answer these questions, the audience must look at how the game of basketball is played differently between able-bodied and wheelchair basketball. The skills and concepts of able-bodied basketball are not the same as wheelchair basketball.
The concept of offense — the most basic, fundamental element of the game — is done differently in both kinds of basketball. In able-bodied basketball, players can use their legs to elevate their body to dunk, shoot a layup, free throw, or other type of shot.
In wheelchair basketball, however, elevating one’s body for any reason is considered a “physical advantage foul” (PAF), according to the rulebook of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA). (And good luck trying to do it since the lower body is strapped completely.)
Also, take into consideration how players in able-bodied basketball are able to use their bodies to get through defenders. Look at how the U.S.A. basketball team was able to push through contact and score against Serbia (and vice versa), as posted by the YouTube channel Team USA Basketball 2016.
However, if any of the American players from this year’s Olympic basketball team were to attempt to push through defenders in wheelchair basketball, their efforts would be futile.
In a conversation I had with the Triangle Thunder basketball head coach, Kevin Bailey, he stated, “When someone sets a pick in [able-bodied] basketball, you can fight through it, wiggle around. In wheelchair basketball, when someone sets a pick, you can’t power through the chair, because it’s physical presence in space; you have to go all the way around it.”
In other words, the whole concept of getting by defenders in wheelchair basketball is about positioning, not brute strength or pure athleticism — or even a combination of the two. If the defender is in the correct defensive position (as mentioned in my 5 Rules and Techniques Everyone Needs to Know When Playing Wheelchair Basketball),there is no getting by him or her. No human body can plow through aluminum or titanium.
To score any amount of points in wheelchair basketball, it takes not only basketball skills, but also wheelchair skills, which these Paralympians have, it is just that the level of execution is much more difficult than plowing through defenders before dunking a basketball.
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