Basketball is one of the most popular and ubiquitous sports in America, which is one of the most sports-obsessed nations in the world. So, we’ve compiled a ranking of all 50 states by basketball interest (plus D.C.!), celebrating and uplifting (and also kind of shaming) the states with the most and least intrigue into hoops.
We did this before with where basketball is most popular in the world, and similarly, this is not a perfect science. I’m using Google Trends to compare states against one another – there is not widespread polling apparatus in use. The data includes the last five years of Google searches, my attempt at showing a snapshot of recent times without focusing too heavily on this exact moment.
U.S. States by Basketball Interest
Zero NBA or WNBA teams, but it doesn’t matter. Kentucky is notoriously a basketball haven, and without major pro teams, the state gets its fill in other ways, namely through college hoops. Kentucky-Louisville is one of the biggest rivalries in all of American sports, let alone college basketball, and that’s in large part due to the insane fervor surrounding the sport in the state.
If you want to live in basketball central, Kentucky is a great place to be.
Although the state doesn’t have the same pedigree on the court as some others high up on this list, Iowa comes in at second for states by basketball interest. It’s not a state you’d necessarily associate with the sport, and I must admit that while I expected Iowa to be high, I didn’t think it would be this high.
It turns out, though, that Iowa is one of the states that watches the most sports overall and has plenty of sports love to go around. Plus, when you do watch an Iowa or Iowa State men’s basketball home game, especially ISU, the passion comes through the screen. One of my favorite games every college basketball season is Kansas at Iowa State on the men’s side, because it’s when the Cyclones fans bring out their best boo birds and unleash them constantly regardless of logic or situation. And the pandemic means we won’t get that this year.
Now I’m sad.
To watchers of college basketball, this comes as no surprise. The Kansas Jayhawks are basketball royalty, and the state has two of the best venues in the entire sport in Allen Fieldhouse and Bramlage Coliseum, also known as The Octagon of Doom. It’s universally understood in the college basketball world just how much Kansas loves the sport.
This is without any NBA or WNBA teams in the state, which continues the trend we’ve seen so far. This may surprise some people to learn the states most interested in basketball don’t have the pros within their borders, but if you know basketball in America well, it makes good sense.
4. West Virginia
For the fourth state in a row, there are no NBA or WNBA teams here. The Mountaineers and Thundering Herd are the highest-level squads in the state, with only one of them competing in a major conference. But it doesn’t matter to West Virginians. They just love hoops.
Like Iowa, West Virginia was also found to be one of the states with the highest sports viewership in the nation. While football was king, like in most American states, there’s still plenty of pie to go around, and basketball must have taken a big piece.
Finally, a state with major pro basketball! Both the Pacers and Fever reside in Indiana, and the state is also home to one of the most storied college basketball programs in history in the Indiana Hoosiers, a popular foil to them in Purdue, and some of the best high school hoops in the nation.
Larry Bird, Hoosiers, Bobby Knight, Gene Keady, Reggie Miller and so many more are associated with basketball in the state. The pedigree of Indiana hoops is unmatched by almost any state in America, and it has to be considered one of the biggest hotbed in the world for the sport.
Indiana is synonymous with basketball.
Rounding out the rest of the 45 states (and D.C.) by basketball interest:
6. Nebraska (Score: 63)
7. North Carolina (56)
8. South Dakota (51)
9. Wisconsin (49)
10. Arkansas (47)
11. Tennessee (47)
12. Michigan (46)
T-13. Alabama / Ohio (44)
15. Mississippi (43)
T-16. South Carolina / Virginia (41)
T-18. Connecticut / North Dakota / Missouri (40)
T-21. Illinois / Minnesota (37)
23. Washington D.C. (36)
T-24. Oklahoma / Pennsylvania (35)
T-26. Georgia / Montana (34)
T-28. Maryland / Nevada (33)
T-30. New Mexico / Rhode Island / Utah / Wyoming (32)
T-34. Arizona / New Jersey / Oregon (31)
T-37. Delaware / Idaho / Vermont (30)
T-40. Louisiana / New York (28)
42. Massachusetts (27)
T-43. Maine / Texas / Washington (25)
T-46. Colorado / Florida (24)
48. Hawaii (23)
49. New Hampshire (22)
T-50. Alaska / California (20)