As one of the world’s most popular sports, basketball is a big favorite in Special Olympics. Athletes learn teamwork while improving their athletic ability. Special Olympics basketball includes over 69,000 athletes in over 40 countries, including every US program. As in all Special Olympics sports, basketball teams are grouped in competition divisions according to the athletes’ and team’s ability level, age, and gender.
Basketball was first contested at the 1968 Special Olympics International Games. By the 1995 World Games, nearly 600 athletes from 40 countries entered the competition. There were 31 men’s teams, 18 women’s teams, and 10 Unified Sports® teams. Additionally, about 100 athletes competed in individual contest events. These events are for the lower ability athletes and include the target pass, ten meter dribble, and spot shot.