There’s no doubt that basketball is certainly one of the biggest sports in the US with huge sponsorship deals, household player names, and the aspirations of many youngsters to grow up and enter the NBA. It attracts plenty of attention outside of the US too and within as punters looking to wager bet with Fanduel amongst others almost daily on some of the biggest games – but what is it about basketball that has made it much more popular in the US than other countries around the world, and is there the potential for change?
The easiest way to see the differences is to just look at games where the opposite is true, like soccer – as the biggest sport across Europe and other parts of the world like South America too, it’s much less popular in the US than other sports, with perhaps the most contributing factor being that the best players are in these regions. If players want to play world class soccer, they either go to the UK and the Premier League, or to Spain and Italy for their regional leagues too, but if you want to play at the top of basketball? You go to the NBA. Whilst there are smaller leagues particularly across some parts of Europe, they certainly don’t hold the same prestige and it brings all of the biggest players from all around the world to the US, and with little home representation of the sport, it becomes difficult to unseat the likes of soccer which are very culturally rooted.
Similarly, the infrastructure doesn’t exist in the same way outside of the US either, young players can grow up playing ball throughout school and college and get picked up by a big team, all of the infrastructure exists to help them develop as a player and eventually get through into the NBA, whilst once again the same isn’t true in Europe, unless a player is really able to stand out in a big way, it’s very difficult to be noticed in an international capacity when local leagues may be much smaller, and with a much lower viewership too. There are some European countries that are doing this better than others, with the likes of France however having quite a wide representation in elite level basketball, but these opportunities are much fewer and far between, particularly when compared to other big local sports like football.
With modern entertainment and streaming options the good news is that sports like Basketball are starting to find a much wider viewership and larger numbers than ever are tuning in, so it may start to lead to a tipping point with the game become more accessible outside of the US, and could lead to an influx of new fans and new players to boot.