Outside of the United States, basketball is expanding exponentially across the globe and this growth is almost too blatant to ignore. Across Europe, the range and quality of talent continues to rise with each passing year, and a new, unlikely market has emerged — the UK.
Britain has played host to a number of regular season games as part of the NBA’s Global Games scheme. The most recent fixture saw the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers voyage across the pond to London in January. Denver and Indiana joined a long list of teams that have traveled to the UK to showcase their talents, including the Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets to name a few.
Two packed arenas in a week! 🔥🔥
— Joel Osborne (@BristolSportJO) January 15, 2017
However, Matt Johnson, the Director of Coaching at National Basketball League side Reading Rockets, believes that although the NBA has been a part of the growth of British Basketball, it hasn’t been the whole story.
“We have seen a rise,” Johnson explained when asked whether he had seen a significant increase in numbers since the NBA and BBL had received more British coverage over the past few seasons. “I’m sure that is partly due to media, I don’t think it’s just the NBA, social media has become such a great marketing tool from our phones so I actually think that the NBA is a part of that (growth), but not the main part.”
British Basketball as a whole has never really been in the limelight or even recognised for the well run organisation that it is until fairly recently, with BBC Sport broadcasting a handful of live games this past season. Alongside extended coverage of the BBL, the NBA has been televised more frequently on BT Sport since the 2015-16 season, with the sport being presented to UK audiences thick and fast as a result.
British basketball will be shown live on the BBC next season.
32 games including all BBL and WBBL finals pic.twitter.com/FqUsXqEsKG
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) July 6, 2016
“Any coverage is good coverage,” Johnson said. “I think once we get to the point where there is money more readily available, the sport will grow larger here. British Basketball is ready for that now and I think with any support of the NBA, which is such an enormous organisation with such a deep market and attraction with all the things that go with it I think the answer has to be undeniably yes, it would benefit the NBL.”
With participation well and truly on the rise in the UK, as Basketball participants rose by 21,000 from 2014 to 2015, the quality of talent in and around the national leagues is sure to increase in tandem. While Leicester Riders Chairman Kevin Routledge has suggested that the sport has “huge potential,” Johnson believes that media coverage is key to any potential growth.
“More media will mean more participants, which will mean more clubs finding that they’re selecting for a team rather than saying ‘great we’ve got ten players we can have a team,’ they’ll say ‘we’ve got 25, we’ve only got enough for one team so 15 aren’t going to make it’.”
As a result of the UK’s continual success with the sport, it was announced recently that the BBL would be teaming up with Matchroom Sports to create an All-Stars Basketball event, where eight teams will be selected to participate in a tournament on September 24th.
— BBL (@BBLofficial) March 28, 2017
The winner will be awarded a grand prize of £25,000, and with the tournament being televised live on global broadcaster Sky Sports, this signals yet another step in the right direction for British Basketball.
It is only a matter of time before the sport receives the adequate funding and international recognition it so blatantly deserves.