A new major professional sports league is coming to the United States next year. Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Roberson, the CEO of the Professional Wheelchair Basketball League. The Professional Wheelchair Basketball League will be the first major national professional wheelchair basketball league in America and will provide thousands of disabled athletes and communities the opportunity to embrace high-quality wheelchair basketball.
With the success of events in 2016 such as the Invictus games, Angel City games, Valor games, and the Rio Paralympics; the time has come for the rise of a new league to showcase the amazing athletes during a professional season. There are currently over 100,000 wheelchair basketball players of all ages in the world. This group includes many disabled veterans. The formation of league will create thousands of jobs across the country, cultivate new markets, provide affordable entertainment options, bring communities together and boost the exposure of the incredibly talented wheelchair basketball players with highly competitive games throughout a full season.
The National Wheelchair Basketball Association has provided many players with the opportunity to play for recreation since 1948. However, the PWBL will take the game to a new level and the existing community has embraced the news of its arrival. Jim Scherr, Interim Executive Director of the NWBA, stated that, “The National Wheelchair Basketball Association supports the growth of wheelchair basketball at all levels and we wish Competitive Edge Sports well as it works to launch the Professional Wheelchair Basketball League providing these outstanding athletes with an opportunity to compete at a professional level in the United States.”
Oregon State Senator, Laurie Anderson referenced how the league will impact education and the community by saying, “The PWBL would create opportunities for wheelchair athletes. Also, more universities could offer wheelchair scholarships and additionally, the professional wheelchair games will generate revenue.” The league will also create jobs, marketing opportunities and unify the new and existing community. Another Oregon State Senator, Sara Gesler, referenced the impact that this league will have on the disabled athlete community by stating that, “The disability rights movement has made great strides in increasing participation of people with all types of disabilities in education, business and politics. A professional wheelchair basketball league would complement this work, expanding disability power and leadership into athletics.”
The league is modeled after the NBA in the way that it will have a minimum salary and salary cap but will have adjustments made to fortify the competitive nature of the sport and maximize the profits such as a maximum salary and ample marketing opportunities for corporations. The league schedule will consist of a total of 28 games per season with 14 home games, 14 away games and a playoff system from October to May. In order to avoid competition for attendance with the NBA, games will be held on days in which the local NBA team is not playing. The league has also drawn the attention of foreign athletes and executives. In fact, a number of domestic and foreign Paralympians have committed to join the league due to it’s structure and strong passion that Americans possess for highly competitive basketball as well as the many opportunities for further growth in the domestic industry.
The rise of the Professional Wheelchair Basketball League is the realization of a dream for many aspiring players. Nate Hinze stated that, “Having a professional wheelchair basketball league would demonstrate our country’s athlete strengths around the world. Wheelchair basketball has allowed me to regain my confidence after my illness in high school. I believe it’s my calling to reach out to everyone and educate them about the abilities of disabled athletes.” The players have various backgrounds regarding their disabilities. Some players were born disabled or may have been injured later in life. Some players may have previously played basketball.
The PWBL will introduce at least 8 new franchise teams in the year 2017 with at least 8 more teams in the coming years. As a Philadelphian, I can recognize the significant positive impact and potential of a local PWBL franchise and as a basketball fan, I hope that the league will be able to find a home in my community as well as many other welcoming communities across the country. The league is currently seeking franchise investors and corporate sponsors. To learn more about the new Professional Wheelchair Basketball League, click here and connect with the league to show your support.