Paris 2024: Introduction to wheelchair basketball

Eight men’s and eight women’s national teams will compete at the Paris 2024 Paralympics, which open on 28 August. 01 Jul 2024
A female wheelchair basketball player carries the ball, while other players surround her
The Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will take place between 28 August and 8 September 2024.
ⒸJoe Toth/ OIS

Welcome to Week 19 of Paris 2024 Paralympic Sport Week. This week, all you need to know about wheelchair basketball, a fast sport that requires teamwork and eye-hand coordination.

Eight men’s and eight women’s national teams will compete at the Paris 2024 Paralympics, which open on 28 August.


History of wheelchair basketball

Wheelchair basketball was one of the eight sports staged at the inaugural Paralympic Games in Rome, Italy, in 1960. But the sport first emerged at two hospitals in the United States for war veterans in 1945, according to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation. 

At the Rome 1960 Paralympics, there were two events in wheelchair basketball – the men’s tournament class A and class B. Both tournaments were won by the USA.

In the earlier Games, the USA and Israel were the two most dominant countries. The US men won the final of both Paralympic Games in 1972 and 1976. The women’s event debuted at the 1968 Paralympic Games in Tel Aviv, Israel, with the home side winning the inaugural gold.

The USA top the medals table with 13 golds, two silver and eight bronze medals, followed by Canada (six golds, one silver one bronze) and Israel (four golds, four silver and four bronze).


What to watch in wheelchair basketball

Wheelchair basketball brings the exciting hoop game to the Paralympics. The sport is very similar to standing basketball; two teams of five players play to score the most points.

Athletes score two points for a basket within the three-point line, three points from the outside, and one point for sinking each free throw. Games consist of four 10-minute periods and extra time if score are tied.

The court, the hoop and the backboards are the same dimension as Olympic basketball but one big difference is the travel rule. Wheelchair basketball players must pass or bounce the ball after every two pushes to avoid being penalised for traveling. There is also no double-dribble rule. 

In wheelchair basketball, two teams of five players play to score the most points. @OIS

Wheelchair basketball is unique because teams are made up of players with a variety of sport classes. They are given points score as their class from 1.0 to 4.5 according to the degree of activity limitation on their ability to play basketball. 

The greater the points score, the greater the player’s volume of action. A team can only have 14 points among the five players on the court at any one time.

The athletes’ wheelchairs are specially designed for speed and agility. They have two large wheels in the back and one or two small wheels in the front.

The athletes’ wheelchairs are specially designed for speed and agility. @Adam Pretty/Getty Images


Memorable Paralympic Moments

Team USA had a lot to celebrate at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Both their men and women’s teams finished on top of the podium, a feat last seen at the 1988 Paralympics. The US women were motivated after missing out on a podium finish at London 2012 to reclaim the titles they won at Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004. Meanwhile, the men broke a 28-year gold medal drought through a superfluous display against every opposition. 

Both the US men and women’s teams finished on top of the podium at Rio 2016. @Friedemann Vogel / Getty Images

Algeria became the first African women’s wheelchair basketball team to play at Paralympic Games in Rio. It marked the first time the women’s tournament saw all four zones represented at the Paralympics – quite a change considering the women’s event was added to the Paralympic programme at the 1968 Tel Aviv Games. Algeria made a mark when they defeated South Africa for gold at the 2015 Africa Zonal Championships. 

Algeria also competed at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. @OIS

At Tokyo 2020, the USA secured back-to-back Paralympic titles in the men's tournament. In the gold medal match against Japan, team captain Steve Serio helped the team climb back from a 56-51 deficit in the last five minutes of the game to win 64-60.

The USA came from behind to beat Japan 64-60 in the gold medal match at Tokyo 2020. @OIS

The Japanese men’s team made headlines in the host country for earning their best ever Paralympic medal in the sport. Japan star Renshi Chokai was named the tournament MVP.

The Netherlands won the women's tournament at Tokyo 2020. @Adam Pretty/Getty Images

The Netherlands dominated the women's tournament and won their first Paralympic gold medal at Tokyo 2020. The Dutch team won every game in Tokyo by double digits, apart from a loss to China in the preliminary rounds. That loss did not matter however when the Dutchwomen exacted their revenge in the gold medal game. 


Paris 2024 programme

Both the men’s and women’s tournaments at Paris 2024 will commence on 29 August, the day after the Opening Ceremony. 

The first match will be an all-European affair, with Great Britain taking on Germany in the men’s Group A. The women’s competition will begin in the same session, with European silver medallists Great Britain facing another European counterpart, Spain, in the women’s Group A encounter.


Men’s event

Group A 

Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France 

Group B 

USA, Spain, Netherlands, Australia 


Women’s event

Group A 

Great Britain, China, Canada, Spain

Group B

Netherlands, Japan, USA, Germany 


Paris 2024 wheelchair basketball competition schedule @IWBF, Paris 2024


Paris 2024 venue

Wheelchair basketball competitions will be held at the Bercy Arena, located in the heart of Paris. 

Wheelchair basketball competitions will be staged at the Bercy Arena. @Paris 2024

The venue has served as the centre of culture and sport in the French capital since it was built in 1984. It has welcomed more than 30 million spectators across hundreds of events, ranging from athletics to basketball, ice hockey and motocross. Now the indoor arena with its iconic pyramid design will welcome Paralympians and fans from around the world for the wheelchair basketball competition.

Discover more about wheelchair basketball and the 22 sports in the Paris 2024 Paralympic sports programme 

Book your tickets for the Paralympic Games by visiting the Paris 2024 ticketing website