Basketball is a favorite among Special Olympics athletes. In addition to team competition, Special Olympics Basketball also offers individual skills competition, which allows athletes to train and compete in basic basketball skills. The development of these key skills is necessary prior to advancing to team play. These events include target pass, ten-meter dribble and spot shot. A player's final score is determined by adding the scores together achieved in each of the events.
Special Olympics athletes can also participate in Unified Sports® basketball team competition. Special Olympics Unified Sports is a program that combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition.
In Unified Sports basketball, the roster must contain a proportionate number of Special Olympics athletes and partners; during competition, the line up shall never exceed three athletes and two partners at any time. Each team shall have a non-playing head coach responsible for the line-up and conduct of the team during competition.
As in all Special Olympics sports, athletes are grouped in competition divisions according to ability level, age and gender.
The following events provide meaningful competition for athletes with lower ability levels:
- Individual Skills Contest
- Spot Shot
- 10 Meter Dribble
- Target Pass
- Basketball was first contested in 1968 at the first Special Olympics Games in Chicago, Ilinois, USA.
- At the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland, 496 Special Olympics athletes from 42 countries competed in basketball.
- As of the 2005 Special Olympics Athlete Participation Report, 239,782 Special Olympics athletes compete in basketball.