CHARLOTTE (Steve Goldberg's Wheel World) - Across the world, from me at least, something significant happened last week. While the full measure of its impact and importance may not be fully judged for some time, a seed planted long ago just received a fertile boost.
That effort received a big assist from FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann when he gave wheelchair basketball a resounding endorsement.
"The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation," said Baumann, "is an organization that is autonomous (and) separate but (one) that we have been supporting for many years and who has recently decided to relocate its core activities and headquarters in Basketball House in Switzerland so our relationship with them is getting closer and closer."
He then asked his audience to do the same.
"In some countries, you may have the opportunity, a chance, or a challenge, it depends, of working with the wheelchair basketball community. In some countries, they are separate. In some countries, you govern them. In others, there are a mixture of relationships."
"What I can say is that it is also our role to help and take care of them."
Before anyone mistakes his sentiment as patronizing to the wheelchair game, I will say that the FIBA boss was referencing the organizational aspects of wheelchair basketball, not the participants, and that's an area in desperate need of assistance in too many nations.
He told the assembly that it was not so much a legal obligation, "but if there is a way to help; if there is a way to bring that sport inside and embrace it even more, please do so and help them.”
His words remind me of a similar statement made by Douglas Ivester, the former Coca Cola chief when they became the first worldwide sponsor of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. He said, "We're not sponsoring the Paralympic Games just because it's the right thing to do; we're sponsoring the Paralympics because it's good business."
The IWBF and its member national governing bodies will be the first to tell you that they, like any Olympic/Paralympic sport, appreciate all the help they can get.
Perhaps the best example of vertical integration is Basketball Australia where the Rollers (men's senior wheelchair team) and the Gliders (women's senior wheelchair team) share effort and glory with the standing Boomers (men) and Opals (women) national teams. The Aussies do love their nicknames, don't they.
The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) certainly would like to have better relations with USA Basketball and that's at the top of the priority list for the leadership there.
In Great Britain, it's the standing game that could use assistance from British Wheelchair Basketball, which has been far more successful on the international stage and has recently grown its women's game to contender status.
Baumann said, "With the extraordinary changes in governance made in 2014, FIBA is progressing very fast. We find ourselves in an environment where it's a case of 'change or be changed' and we definitely want to be in control of our own destiny."
That's something the IWBF and its membership want as well.
But first you get by with a little help from your friends.
By Steve Goldberg for FIBA.com