Basketball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, basketball is now the second most popular sport in the UK for teenagers and the number of people picking up the sport is growing rapidly.
The NBA, which has a huge international fanbase, has been coming to the UK for eight years straight now in the form of a regular season game. Last year the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors battled it out at the 02 arena in front of a sold out crowd of 20,000. The tickets for that game sold out in under an hour. Furthermore the British Basketball League (BBL) is now broadcast across the BBC and the NBA is broadcast on BT sport – this has grown the amount of young basketball players dramatically.
The BBL, founded in 1987, which is formed of 13 teams also sells thousands of tickets at their annual playoff-final at the 02 – showing the fanbase for domestic basketball in the UK is also at an all time high. Online platforms such as Hoopsfix have also developed the fanbase of domestic basketball – showing highlights and hosting matches. The National League system for youth teams in the UK, which I was briefly part of, works excellently and has dramatically risen the quality of grassroots basketball in the UK too.
As well as the rise in young players playing for organised teams, the amount of players turning up to courts around the UK has risen promptly. It seems that whenever I have turned up to a court in the past year there has always been a large number of players whether that be in London or my hometown, a large sunny seaside town, Folkestone.
After all, all you need to play basketball is a ball and a hoop. Basketball is a simple sport to learn and practice – it can be played with 1 person, 2 people, 4 people, 6 people – no wonder so many people have decided to pick it up. It’s not a sport which eliminates those from poorer backgrounds either because of the price to participate – such as sports like rowing, horse-riding and tennis. Moreover, basketball is one of the most diverse and international sports there is- a positive advantage in a diverse and international Britain.
However, UK Sport’s funding of the sport has been weak compared to other sports. After the 2012 Olympics, funding for basketball was cut because of the lack of success of the GB Basketball team (who were competing against countries stacked with NBA players). Although at around the same time, Sport England, who run local and club level sport, increased their funding for Basketball citing the “extraordinary impact” of basketball on deprived communities.
Basketball at grassroots level has experienced a meteoric rise over the last few years and it will continue to rise at incredible rates. While basketball will never overtake football in the UK, at grassroots level it can most definitely overtake the UK’s other established sports (if it hasn’t already)
Although, Sam Neter of Hoopsfix told Cultivation there is still a lot to be done to improve grassroots basketball in the UK
Cultivation: You run hoopsfix, one of the biggest basketball platforms in the UK. During your time covering UK Basketball have you seen an improvement in the quality of players who have been developed in the UK?
Contrary to the popular rhetoric, I don’t actually think there has been any type of drastic improvement in the quality of players in the UK. This summer people will point to the unprecedented level of success our junior teams have had, but I don’t think talent/skill wise they are notably better than teams we’ve fielded in the same age groups in years gone.
Cultivation: The NBA is coming to London again this year, how has the NBA impacted British Basketball?
The NBA puts on a great showcase of their league every year with their exhibition in the UK, but I don’t really think it has any type of lasting impact beyond a one off showpiece event. They’ve started to do more on the ground, in particular with their Jnr NBA League in association with Basketball England, but ultimately it’s not their job to develop basketball in the UK.
Cultivation: Has the funding for grassroots basketball in the UK been enough?
Depends how you define ‘enough’. In comparison to what some other ‘smaller’ sports receive, no. Could we get a lot more out of what we already receive? Yes.
Cultivation: What more can be done to aid the development of Basketball in the UK?
This is a pretty big, open ended question. I’ve always said it ultimately comes down to the federations to take more central control. Without the federation taking a lead, it will be very hard for anything to improve drastically as an average across the country.
Basketball in the UK is growing rapidly but, according to Sam Neter of hoopsfix, still needs a lot more development and help from England’s Basketball Federation to reach it’s full potential in the UK.
By Greg Kennedy