Why is Basketball a Global Sport?

Basketball was first introduced in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith who invented it while he was working at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

It has evolved into one of the most popular sports globally with more than 2 billion people participating in over 200 countries worldwide.

Since its inception, basketball has become an exciting international game that brings together fans from all walks of life.

This makes basketball a truly unique sport since no other professional team sport allows for such widespread participation from so many different backgrounds around the globe.

So why is basketball regarded as a major international sport?

Well, here’s a concise answer for you…

Basketball is considered a global sport due to key contributors such as the globalization of the NBA – America’s top professional basketball league – and growing television audiences across the world who tune in to watch games.

Let’s now expound on this.

How did basketball become a global sport?

The following paragraphs discuss how the aforementioned factors have contributed to making basketball such a great sport that attracts millions of spectators each year across multiple continents.

1. Globalization of the NBA

why basketball is a global sport - globalization of the NBA

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated “the globalization of our league” in his opening remarks during the 2016 All-Star Game’s 50th anniversary celebration.

He went on to say that this would help make basketball even better and appeal to even more viewers around the world.

In fact, the statistics don’t lie.

Because the average NBA viewership grew 19 percent from the 2020-2021 season among networks such as ABC, ESPN and TNT.

The NBA now boasts a massive audience of monthly viewers through television broadcasts, digital streaming, online video and social media platforms like Facebook Live.

When it comes to social media, here’s what the Athletic had to say about the NBA’s growth:

“The league also made strides on social media. NBA TikTok saw 481 million video views, a 305 percent increase over last season. Instagram Reels had 3.3 billion views, up 259 percent increase year over year. The league ended the regular season with over 66 million followers on Instagram, making it the most-followed professional sports account and ninth most-followed “brand account” overall.”

Source – The Athletic

Additionally, the NBA has been translated into many languages, including Klingon!

In terms of expanding the reach of basketball internationally, the NBA has had significant success over recent years.

For example, China became the third largest market last year after surpassing Japan’s 10 million ticket sales milestone.

Meanwhile, the NBA will soon begin broadcasting games live in India — which could further increase awareness about the game globally.

Furthermore, the popularity of the NBA also extends to South Korea where there are dedicated basketball stadiums named for superstars LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Dwyane Wade.

These figures show just how much interest basketball holds around the world and how far it still needs to go.

2. Growing television audiences

why basketball is a global sport - growing television audiences

Televised sporting events continue to grow in importance due to their ability to attract new audiences and keep existing ones engaged.

As mentioned earlier, the number of people watching the NBA continues to rise steadily every season despite some controversies along the way.

One reason for this growth is because the NBA consistently produces quality content that keeps fans entertained throughout the regular season.

Another important factor contributing to growing viewing numbers is the increasing availability of high-speed internet services worldwide.

According to Google, more than 90 percent of Americans use broadband connections compared to only 61% back in 2009.

Although cable companies still control roughly 90 percent of the US’ household entertainment preferences, consumers tend to prefer using streaming services nowadays as they often provide access to wider selection of movies and shows.

The same goes for the NBA which began offering streaming rights exclusively via Amazon Prime Video in 2015.

With such options available today, the chances of someone being able to get instant gratification or watch a game when they want them without having to wait weeks between seasons are significantly higher.

3. Hotly contested rivalries

why basketball is a global sport - hotly contested rivalries

Another advantage of televised sports is the ability to bring rivalries closer to home.

Fans living abroad can easily tune into local teams thanks to modern technology and convenient broadcast schedules.

For instance, if you’re not interested in NBA games but happen to catch a few NBA Europe League matches on TNT, then you’ll see your favorite players face off against familiar European opponents.

Rivalries play an integral role in driving fan loyalty and attendance levels.

So, what happens when two rivals come together for friendly competition?

They end up playing harder and faster, which leads to greater intensity and excitement.

When the stakes are raised, rivalries intensify and lead to memorable moments and storylines that leave both sides feeling victorious.

4. Basketball rules are easy to learn and understand

why basketball is a global sport - easily understandable rule set

Although basketball rules have changed slightly over time, they remain relatively straightforward for newcomers and casual observers.

A lot less complicated than football, hockey and baseball, basketball rules are designed to ensure fair play and prevent cheating.

For anyone looking to join in the fun, learning the basics isn’t difficult either.

Most basketball leagues offer official training programs teaching participants everything from shooting form to defensive tactics.

Online tutorials and videos allow others to follow along at home, creating opportunities for families and friends to experience the thrills and spills of the fast-paced action.

So, whether you plan to participate competitively or just enjoy seeing top notch talent perform, basketball is a thrilling game that offers everyone a chance to compete and win.

And with globalization continuing to evolve alongside technological advancements, it looks like the future of basketball is bright indeed.

5. Basketball can be played anywhere

why basketball is a global sport - can be played anywhere

Lastly, basketball is very accessible to fans across the world because all the equipment the game needs is a ball and a hoop.

What this does is allow people from all walks of life to participate in the sport, whether that means playing on indoor courts or on the concrete outside.

Basketball truly has no boundaries!


As we’ve seen, the combination of several key factors helps explain why basketball remains a hugely popular sport, especially in developing nations.

However, there may always be room for improvement.

While the NBA has experienced tremendous growth within individual regions, there is certainly opportunity to expand further.

Luckily the NBA doesn’t seem too concerned about reaching those areas yet.

Instead, they focus on building strong relationships with partners and communities already established.

This strategy seems to have worked well thus far.

If the NBA follows suit, then perhaps future generations will look upon the organization as pioneers of globalization rather than innovators of niche markets.

For further reading on another general basketball topic, have a look through our article on whether basketball is a winter sport.

It does a great job of explaining if the sport fits into the classification of a cold season game.

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.