Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

The Factors Behind the Growing Popularity of Basketball Globally

Editor’s Note: The following has been prepared for us by one of our partners, Sport Surfaces, and was written by Paul Gold.

Whether it’s the Olympics, the NBA or the European League, basketball has been recognized as a social and economic force worldwide. The sport is emerging in popularity alongside the expansion of its competitive and internationally accepted cousin, football (“soccer”), across different parts of the world. In terms of growth and popularity, basketball is definitely growing at a remarkable pace. You will be surprised to know that countries such as China, which comprise one-third of the world’s population, have wholeheartedly embraced basketball. As you can understand, growth in such a situation is an understatement.

The sport has always been a popular leisure in America, but in recent times it has started spreading its admiration across the Atlantic to the UK and Europe. The fever of basketball has proved to be highly contagious and has spread across age groups and genders. Statistics shows that the craze for this sport has increased amongst young girls and boys over the last decade. According to Patrick Baumann, “If you look around the world and see the statistics of the world’s most popular sport in the age group 14-18, its basketball across all gender.” But the question remains: what has moved the sport to the supreme level of popularity?

There are countless reasons behind the growth if one knows where to look. With the international broadcasting of the game, fans all over the world can watch NBA games. The domestic confederations also have their own coverage, all thanks to the wonders of satellite TV. However, the importance of the Internet cannot be overlooked. It has fueled interest in basketball by allowing teams to maintain their own web pages, forums and chatrooms. Of course the buzz with the social media all over the world when a big game is played makes it all the more popular with fans.

Who can forget the thoughtful idea behind promoting basketball for physically challenged performers? With the popularity of the Paralympic Games first played in Rome in 1960, wheelchair basketball came into the limelight. Developed by the American World War II veterans, the sport has become much respected not as a rehabilitation program, but as a competitive sport across the globe. You can now find more than 80 countries encouraging wheelchair basketball teams comprised of both men and women.

Then there’s the celebrity element influencing the game to a great extent. With Michael Jordan dazzling everyone throughout the 80s and 90s (and into the 2000s) he became the superstar of sports television. He was a great game changer because of his unique moves to the basket, immaculate shooting and awesome game control. The impact of Jordan’s game was so profound that the league decided to change the rule of the game and make it more interesting and enjoyable by discouraging the defenders to stay within the lane for three seconds. The hope was to encourage players to attack the basket frequently. It was MJ’s dominance and on-court competitiveness that changed the game of basketball forever. Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James to name a few, are some of the prominent players who have in some ways mirrored Jordon’s style and have also thanked him because of his enormous contribution and popularity he has brought to the game.

It is also worth mentioning how David Stern has helped grow the sport during his 30-years tenure. After the introduction of “Dream team’ in 1992, Stern and the NBA team (National Basketball Association) completely transformed basketball and made it one of the most-watched competitive sports. Not only this, with the support of the NBA, WNBA also grew in popularity and provided opportunity for women players which previous generations could never have imagined. Young girls playing basketball in their schools and colleges now dream of becoming the next Brittney Griner or Candace Parker.  The NBA was the first league to adopt salary cap in 1980 and offered cities the interests of competing for the championship.

Several sports are facing competition from the NBA and have invested in efforts to make the sport all the more renowned in different countries such as Saudi Arabia, Canada, China and many nations in Europe. Recently, the NBA is also encouraging the game in Africa and is keen to focus on grassroots level to grow the game by working with relevant personnel to build the infrastructure needed for the sport. They are also working with the local coaches to ensure that game is admired by the majority and is an appealing product to watch.  The NBA’s influence has begun to expand globally and an increasing number of international players are taking interest in the sport.

No wonder the basketball fever has gripped the world and is evident by the growing number of people who are playing the sport both at home and abroad.



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