Published on 21 Jan 2012 Sections

How difficult is Paralympic basketball?

How difficult is wheelchair basketball for an able-bodied player? Channel 4 News brings together Guildford Heat captain Mike Martin and Paralympic medallist Simon Munn to find out.

The frustration was palpable: professional English basketball player Mike Martin does not usually miss three shots in a row.

But this was an unusual training session. The Guildford Heat captain was trying wheelchair basketball and taking instructions from arguably the best player Great Britain has produced.

Simon Munn has played in every Paralympics since Barcelona ’92 winning a silver medal and two bronze in the process. He is aiming for gold at London 2012.

Able-bodied basketball and wheelchair basketball are similar in more ways than not – the hoop is the same height, the court the same size, there are the same number of players and the games are equal in length.

The rules only differ to the extent that the Paralympic version acknowledges the use of a wheelchair.

Seeing Simon move so quickly – I wanted to replicate those same moves but it just wasn’t happening. Mike Martin

In the words of Simon Munn “the chair is a piece of equipment that you have to control” which he compares to a cyclist using a bike.

Paralympic players must bounce, pass or shoot the ball without touching the wheels of the chair more than twice.

There is also a points system to make sure the level of disability on each team is similar: minimally disabled athletes are classed as 4.5 and players with the most severe disabilities as 1.0. The total value of the players of each team on court must not exceed 14 points.

Read more: Why Simon Munn is 'bored' telling people how he lost his leg
Michael Martin of England dunks in the men's bronze medal basketball game between England and Nigeria in 2006 (Getty)

‘It just wasn’t happening!’

For Mike Martin mastering the movement of the wheelchair was by far the biggest challenge: “Your brain tells you left to right but to do that you really, really have to be concentrating all the time so it’s really difficult to make quick movements unless you’re used to it.

“Speed as well, in basketball you want to go at 110mph but in the chair it’s really difficult to do that at first.

“Seeing Simon move so quickly – I wanted to replicate those same moves but it just wasn’t happening. I take my hat off to Simon he’s a very, very good basketball player.”

The pair squared up for a friendly one-on-one competition but Simon’s speed in the chair meant it was a one-sided affair.

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In a more equal measure of ability, they also had a free throw competition with Simon shooting from his chair while Mike took his shots standing up. It finished three baskets each.

Simon, who has taught other people to play wheelchair basketball, seemed impressed with Mike’s efforts: “He’s obviously an able-bodied player so he’s got the shot, I was just teaching him about the moves in the chair and he did fantastically.”

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