The chair that Wheelchair Bulls player Joe Gerardi and his teammates use for basketball is far different from more common versions.

That's out of necessity more than anything.

"They're modified to increase speed and to take contact," said Gerardi, the team's manager. "They'll have wings on the front of the chairs. They're not as heavy and they're built so you can push them fast, go fast."

These chairs feature six wheels, with the main two wheels angled inward to allow for easier range of movement and quicker spinning, the better with which to turn on a dime in order to stop a defender.

"The wheels are cambered out so my chair spins extremely fast," said Wheelchair Bulls star Dave Radbel, a 35-year-old South Loop resident.

Fundamentally, wheelchair basketball isn't much different than its able-bodied counterpart.

"Charging is the same," Radbel said. "You have to be stationary and take your spot. … We shoot 3-pointers and floaters and the only thing we can't do is dunk."

The chair functions as an extension of the body. Because of that, strategy is different.

"Defense is kind of a man-to-man zone hybrid because once you're picked, you're out of the play completely," Radbel said. "You see a man to man [defense] with zone tendencies."

While size helps in the able-bodied game, wheelchair hoops players say their game places a premium on speed.

"It's pretty tough, especially going up against faster guys and people who know how to use their chairs," said 18-year-old Wheelchair Bulls player Kyle Gribble. "You just gotta learn how to stop chairs, keep up with them."

"In wheelchair basketball, I can keep a big guy away from the hoop and neutralize his size with my speed," Radbel said. "I keep him further away from the hoop and that way it's a little bit different."

Because of that, star players work on developing a strong outside shot. If the bank is open, Radbel says you're money.

"The 15-, 20-foot shot is deadly in this game," he said. "We run a screen and roll and the bank shot. When you watch me play, the bank shot is my favorite shot."

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

 

LOOK FAMILIAR?

Much of what you'll see when the Wheelchair Bulls play is the same as the original Bulls. But there are a few nuances.

Players per team

NBA: Teams must carry 12 active players and at least one inactive players at all times