Basketball in Britain
Back in the 90s Channel 4 started showing the NBA games and suddenly school children everywhere had a sport other than soccer to obsess over. Kids started talking about the Dream Team and discussing ways they could emulate their favorite basketball players.
Basketball has always had a steady fan base in the UK, but of course it has always been way down the list behind soccer, cricket and rugby. The London 2012 Olympic Games saw a huge surge in the game’s popularity that has increased over the last 12 months.
So much so that England Basketball and British Basketball League (BBL) recently released a statement announcing their plans to work more closely together. Since the Olympics there has been a 27 percent increase in people attending the top clubs of the BBL.
The sport is big enough to command Wembley Arena for its show game play off final. Earlier this year league leaders Leicester Riders won the playoffs against the Newcastle Eagles at Wembley and the venue is lined up for the playoffs in 2014.
As well as audiences at the games increasing and more and more people getting involved with the sport, betting on basketball has hugely increased, further showing how important it’s becoming in the UK. Punters are spending time checking the odds and laying down their hard earned cash at sites like freebets.org for basketball almost as much as they’re betting on more traditional British sports like football and cricket.
The 2014 season welcomes a new team – the Birmingham Knights and the London Lions have moved to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which has already seen two sell out matches when the Lions played Iowa University and when Great Britain played Puerto Rico in a warm up for EuroBasket.
The Chairman of England Basketball, Jan Hagen, has been quoted as saying he’s extremely excited by the growing popularity of the sport. He said: “I believe we have a great opportunity to drive participation in the sport by working with the BBL, the top clubs and other partners.”
The game has come a long, long way since it started in the USA in 1891. It may be a deceptively simple game to play but anyone who has tried it knows it’s tough and you have been extremely fit. In the 80s and 90s the world sat up and took notice as the American National Basketball Association (NBA) spewed out star player after star player and the games were televised all over the world, increasing the audience for the sport.
The 2012 London Olympics were the first time England entered a male and female basketball team since London last hosted the games in the 1940s and it looks like basketball is set to stay and increase further in popularity this side of the pond.