The NBA is, at its heart, an American league. However, basketball is far from an American-only sport. While it started in the states, the game has spread to many, many countries across the globe. And it only continues to gain popularity with each and every passing year.
There are many places that enjoy basketball in a range of different ways. Here, I will cover how many countries have a close relationship with the game, as well as if those places have any official leagues, or if they see it as a much more casual affair.
Basketball, All Over the World
There are currently 197 countries in the world. Nearly all of them play basketball in one way or another.
While that may be surprising to some, the sport is currently ranked as the seventh most popular on Earth. That’s due to a global following of almost a billion people.
With numbers that high, it’s easy to see why so many countries love playing the game. Even so, it doesn’t have the same amount of popularity in every country. In some places, like the U.S. and Europe, there are official leagues. In others, it’s only played recreationally.
In terms of global popularity, no country enjoys basketball more than the United States. They are then followed by the Philippines, Australia, Canada, Iraq, and Mongolia.
That does not come from the sheer number of players, but from how much that populace engages with the sport.
If a country searches for it online or watches games, they go up in ranking. If they do less, even if more people play casually, they go down.
FIBA and Beyond
When it comes to gauging basketball’s influence worldwide, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) is a good place to start. The organization hosts the FIBA World Cup, which takes in 56 different countries from all over the world.
That alone suggests basketball is a worldwide phenomenon. In fact, just about every person from every corner of the globe knows about it in one way or another. Many nations that don’t even know about FIBA still have strong ties to the sport.
Looking beyond FIBA, it’s important to note that over 100 countries have their own basketball leagues as well. There are many smaller ones out there, suggesting a presence in those nations, and some of the larger ones are slowly gaining more followers.
While the NBA continues to reign supreme in terms of popularity, other major sports organizations are the Euroleague, Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), and the National Basketball League (NBL).
The EuroLeague currently has 18 teams, the CBA has 20, while the NBL has 38. Not only that, but each of those leagues either has or constantly flirts with top NBA talent. There are plenty of excellent foreign players, and almost all of them came out of or played in, the other leagues.
A Rise in Popularity
Regardless of how you look at it, basketball’s popularity is growing. Not just in the U.S., where it pulls in more and more viewers each year, but across the entire globe. You can’t escape the game these days, and that’s a good thing for fans of the sport.
While in the past you had to be based in the U.S. to watch it on TV, it’s not accessible everywhere on Earth. You can watch the NBA online, or you can tune into other leagues from around the world.
As a game, basketball has come a long way over the last 100 years. What was once a much more casual recreational activity steadily grew into a worldwide phenomenon. It’s played in just about every country on Earth, with many larger ones having high-stakes, competitive leagues.
While it’s easy to assume the big countries are the only ones that enjoy throwing a ball through a hoop, the statistics show that’s a love shared by just about every single nation.