What Would It Take for Basketball to Become a Popular Sport in the UK?

Photo Credit: AP Photo / Dave Thompson

What Would It Take for Basketball to Become a Popular Sport in the UK?


When you think of British sports, you are most likely to think of football, rugby, and cricket. Though plenty of schoolchildren play basketball in PE lessons or in after-school clubs, it is rare that you will find adults playing and following the sport to the same extent that we see in the USA and other countries. Could we see the profile of basketball be raised in the same way that we see in these countries? Let’s take a look!

An American Sport

It is important to note that one reason why basketball is so popular in the US is that it is an American sport through and through. It was developed in Massachusetts by Canadian James Naismith. The first official game was played in 1892 and it grew organically throughout the US much in the same way that we saw football spread throughout the UK.

Having come up through the YMCAs and other organisations, it is a game of the people. In the UK, we already have that. Introducing basketball as a competitive sport is difficult as it is bringing in something foreign to a country that has a long sporting history. The big three of the UK – rugby, cricket, and football – were all developed here and people have played them for years. Though basketball is played, there are few who are interested in casually playing it in the same way that we see many Americans doing.

It is fair to say that basketball is an American sport, just as we could say that cricket is a British one. Could you imagine trying to introduce cricket to the States? This is a similar challenge to what we can expect from trying to get basketball played at a higher level in the UK.


One reason why basketball is so popular in the US is undoubtedly because of the NBA. This is one of the biggest sporting franchises in the States and has helped to create some sporting legends of not just the USA but the entire world. There are thirty teams across the United States and Canada, and they play across a season that extends from October to April.

This franchise commands a massive audience, not just in the USA but across the world. It is the premier basketball league. If you want to play basketball professionally, there is a good chance that you want it to be in the NBA – similar to how many football players might wish to play in England’s Premier League or Germany’s Bundesliga. 

Interest in the NBA can be found in many areas of the internet because of this. Some of the newest sites online that deal with gambling and sports betting will often put up basketball odds as soon as they can so that they can capture audience interest. What’s more than that, if you shop around you’ll find sites where you can get £10 free. Whenever an NBA match is scheduled to be played, you can expect it to be broadcast through both television and on-demand streaming. If you want to see an NBA game, no matter how old, it should not be too difficult to track down.

The International Leagues

Though basketball is biggest in the USA, there is no denying that it is not a big sport in other countries too. From Brazil to Lithuania to the Philippines, there is no denying that this sport is big elsewhere. While some of the newest sites that cover sports betting might not cover these international leagues, there are plenty of games happening.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup takes place on a four-year cycle and is scheduled to avoid the FIFA World Cup. The trophy is known as the Naismith trophy after the father of the game. While it is well-attended by many fans of the sport, we have still yet to see a team from the UK. Presumably, each of the Home Nations would field their own team as we see them do in other major competitions. Due to the lack of national representation, this competition would pass most Brits by unless they had an interest in a team from another country. Without a grounded interest at home, with a British team to support, most sports fans are instead going to focus their attention on those sports where we can see the UK participating.

What Would It Take to Raise the Profile of Basketball?

There are professional teams in the UK. The London Lions are just one of the clubs that take part in both the UK league and the wider FIBA Europe Cup. In fact, you will find professional basketball clubs in most of the major cities of the UK, such as the Glasgow Rocks or the Newcastle Eagles. These games are even well-attended in person, with tickets often selling out. So, why is basketball not a bigger sport in the UK?

Much of it comes down to exposure. Sports broadcasting in the UK focuses on football, rugby, cricket, and horse racing on the major channels. It is possible to find broadcasts for basketball, but they tend to be on sports-only channels that might require a subscription to access. With other sports freely available on public channels, it is little wonder that Brits are not tuning in to watch these games.

If basketball is to become more popular in the UK, we need to see an overhaul of the exposure the sport receives. By giving Brits more opportunities to engage with the sport, whether they are playing it themselves or checking out a game, the profile of the sport will be raised.

There is the potential for basketball to become a popular sport in the UK. We could even one day see a team from the home nations compete in a big international competition like the World Cup. There are plenty of basketball fans in the UK but right now they do not have the resources or direction to properly celebrate the sport they love. With some careful changes, there is no reason why basketball can’t become more popular in the UK. 

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