Wheelchair basketball is no longer the novelty that it once was. The game has come a long way since the 1970s, when many people saw wheelchair athletes playing basketball as objects of sympathy. Or reactions would sometimes go the opposite way, with overbearing admiration given to those who tried to compete even though they could no longer run or jump. Thankfully, those days are gone. Wheelchair basketball is a highly competitive sport and in order to participate and succeed, those who take part need the proper equipment, including the right kind of chair. It’s not just a matter of getting on the court with a standard wheelchair. Just as a player wouldn’t get out on the basketball court in work boots, a wheelchair player needs a specialized chair to play his best basketball.
What to Look for
Wheelchair basketball players have dictated how the equipment has evolved. Popular demand has determined that the best chairs for the sport are light, strong and can turn easily. Basketball wheelchairs are designed to accelerate quickly and turn on a dime. Wheelchair basketball is a contact sport, so the chairs have to be strong enough to withstand hits without getting damaged or flipping. Most chairs are made of lightweight steel or titanium and also have an extra wheel in the back to keep the chairs from flipping over. Most basketball wheelchairs weigh 25 to 30 lbs. and cost at least $1,500. The more expensive models cost $3,000 or more.
Wheelchair basketball players may be drawn to the flashiest and most expensive chairs, but players don’t need every option. A fully welded frame and axle are requirements that provide strength and security for the athlete. A good basketball chair also needs a pivoting fifth wheel that allows the player to change direction in an instant and hit full speed quickly. High-pressure tires are also a necessity because they give the player the security to push hard when extra speed is needed without compromising the chair. If price is not an issue, a player will consider using a chair with a titanium frame because it is strong and light.
About this Author
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer who has been covering sports for 27 years. He is the author of The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Triumph Books, Chicago) and two other books on the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.