The NBA has grown immensely in popularity since the league’s earlier years of financial implications back in the 1970s, with a large amount of their recent success coming in the form of various star players from international countries announcing their intent to play at the sport’s top ranked league.
A study in April 2021 estimated that outside the States, a vast number of other countries’ population has claimed their love for the sport of basketball and regularly tunes into NBA games whenever they are broadcasted on live TV.
Ranked at number one of the list with a staggering 63% of the country’s population tuning into games is the Philippines with the closest front runner at 38% being China.
Canada (30%), Mexico (29%), Argentina (28%) and Spain (27%) all rank very highly on the list which has showcased just how popular the sport of basketball has truly become for worldwide fans.
Many fans will be quick to question as to how the league and sport in general has amassed such a large following from overseas audiences with some factors being much more simplistic to understand than others with these being among the key reasons as to why the NBA continues to grow as a brand internationally.
- Expansion teams and international games:
There is currently only one NBA franchise that is based in another country and that of course is the 2019 World Champions Toronto Raptors who joined the NBA in 1995 as an expansion franchise alongside the likes of the Vancouver Grizzlies who would later relocate to Memphis.
Despite the failure of the Grizzlies, the Raptors have amassed a widespread amount of following in Canada and are now amongst the most elite clubs by virtue of their impeccable fan support.
Given the amount of success that the Raptors have brought to the NBA by attracting Canadian audiences, there is every bit of a chance that another international expansion team could be on the cards in the future with the most likely destination being Mexico City, Mexico according to NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.
Another reason for this continuous growth internationally comes in the form of the NBA staging certain games in foreign countries with the most recent example being the 2022 Japan Games held in the Saitama Super Arena near the country’s capital.
There is every bit of a chance that the NBA will host a fair few other games overseas that could be almost reminiscent of the NFL’s international ties to the UK, Mexico and more recently Germany as fans want to watch their favorite player/team in action without flying across to the States.
- Sports betting:
Whilst the US has its own strict stance in place for sports betting in certain states, most other countries do not share the same restrictions which have allowed fans to bet on almost any contest that they may sight an interest in watching.
Fans can enjoy viewing the latest NBA odds whilst watching an ongoing contest from the comfort of their own homes which is often a great way for more fans to become further affiliated and engaged with the sport as a whole.
Sports betting is a commendable way for fans to become entertained with any such sporting contest that they may not had much or any prior knowledge about beforehand, which is a great way to attract more viewers from overseas country’s that regularly tune into games.
- International Players:
One of the best ways that the league can amass its wider foreign demographic and viewership is to regularly feature star international players on most broadcasts with fans around the world often ready to watch their country’s best names in action.
There are many legendary names from other nations that have put both the league and international markets on notice with the best examples including Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, the Gasol brothers, Steve Nash and Hakeem Olajuwon being some of the key names.
Following on from these legends, there are several other international players to watch on a regular occurrence that rank amongst the league’s elite names such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid which will always draw in several audiences from foreign countries, especially if their team goes far in the playoffs.
These are just some of the many methods that the NBA has taken to improve its international following, and it has paid off in dividends.
The league is now one of the most widely televised sporting divisions on the planet and continues to amass such a widespread amount of following on a nightly basis with even more expansion expected to happen in the upcoming few years.