July 4th. It is America’s Independence Day. It is also the day when Kevin Durant, an NBA superstar, used his independence and decided to take his talents to the Golden State Warriors — a team that won a record-breaking 73 games in the previous regular season.
When Kevin Durant posted his decision in an article on the Player’s Tribune website on July 4th, 2016, it spurred instant controversy, causing multiple NBA analysts such as Stephen A. Smith, who works for ESPN, to rant on Facebook live about the decision.
Stephan A. Smith regarded Durant’s decision — and continues to regard it — as “the weakest move ever done by an NBA superstar.” He even goes as far as to say that Durant has “ruined the regular season” because he made the Warriors a super team.
What does this soliloquy of information have to do with wheelchair basketball? Well, I believe it is time that I taught you about the classification system in wheelchair basketball.
The classification system is a tool that the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) uses to determine the mobility of the athletes.
The system uses a point scale, and it goes by increments of 0.5. The lowest number (i.e., the player with the least amount of mobility) on the point scale is 1.0 and the highest (i.e., the player who has the most mobility) is 4.5.
According to the NWBA website, the teams can have no more than 15 points on the court. So, for instance, if there are five players on the court, and their combined classification ranking is 15.5 or 16 points, then, it is a foul, according to the rules of the NWBA.
One of the reasons why this rule exists is because it gives everyone of varying disabilities a chance to play; however, this reason is asinine.
What matters in wheelchair basketball is not only one’s amount of basketball skills and one’s mobility, but also — and more importantly — one’s wheelchair skills.
In a previous post, I had conducted an interview with Kevin Bailey, player and coach of the Triangle Thunder wheelchair team. In the interview he said, “Chair skills are a massive part of wheelchair basketball. Without them, no good player can be good.”
I remember when my team and I had our season opener. I was playing against this guy who was taller than me. He was also a 4.0 or 4.5. I am a 2.0. However, he was a rookie, and I had nine years of experience on him.
So, every time I got down into the post against him, I was able to use my chair skills to my advantage and get by him and score. So, just because he had more mobility than I did, does not mean that he was better me, by any means.
Coincidentally, during the same game, my teammate and coach, Kevin Bailey, who has over ten years of experience and is a 1.0, was making plays throughout the game, and one of the players from the other team, who has just as much experience as Kevin, could not even make a shot, and he was a 4.0.
Having said that, I realize that not every player who is a 4.0 or a 4.5 is a rookie. There are some players with great mobility and excellent chair skills, and they are often the best players on their respective teams.
Additionally, some teams have multiple players who are in the 3.0-4.5 range.To penalize a team for having too many players with a certain level of mobility is egregious for two reasons:
It tells the other teams who do not have those kind of players that they cannot overcome a specific challenge, which goes against the purpose of the sport. Individuals with disabilities spend their lives overcoming obstacles, and to make an obstacle less difficult is insulting to the individual.
Furthermore, if a team’s best five players are classified as 4.0 or 4.5, then they should start, because that is the concept of basketball: one team’s best starting versus the other team’s best starting five — even if one of the teams is a super team.
Imagine if the NBA made a rule that a team cannot have more than two players who average 20+ points per game. That would mean that the fans would not be able to see how Kevin Durant would play with Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, which would be terrible for the association in terms of ratings.
Ultimately, the idea of a super team playing together might not be fair for the competition, and some fans might hate it; but it is entertaining to watch, regardless. If the team is restricted in any kind of way, then that in of itself robs the fans of exciting basketball.
What do you think about super teams and the classification rule? Comment below.