Basketball started with peach baskets in Massachusetts. Today, it’s a massive sport internationally, and it’s one of the dominant athletics in the United States. But where is basketball most popular?
This isn’t a perfect science. I’m unable to traverse the globe conducting complex surveys and inventing algorithms to conclusively determine where basketball is most popular. There’s a pandemic going on. But what I do is look at Google Trends and collect what areas search for “basketball” the most, indicating some about the amount of interest (or lack thereof) in said locations. I’ll be including the last five years of data Google provides in an attempt to keep it current but not too focused on this year.
If this is not deep enough for you, feel free to close this article and move on with your day. If you enjoy useless information in a pleasant format, then come along and enjoy the ride.
Where Is Basketball Most Popular?
Shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about this sport. The inventor of basketball was Canadian, but he created his game in America, and hoops has been dominated by the United States since. In men’s and women’s basketball at the Olympics, the United States by far leads the way on the medal table with 23 gold, two silver and three bronze, blowing the second-place Soviets out of the water. Performance on the international stage doesn’t necessarily equate to mass popularity, but in the case of the United States, it’s pretty impossible to ignore.
Remember when I said Olympic medals don’t necessarily indicate popularity? Look no further than the Philippines, a nation that has never medaled in the sport and isn’t even in the competition often – it has been since 1972 that the Philippines qualified for the men’s tournament, and it’s never played in the women’s side. And yet, Filipinos are searching “basketball” the second-most of anyone in the world.
The inclusion of the Aussies near the top makes sense to anyone who has watched the NBA, WNBA or St. Mary’s men’s basketball in the last 10 years. Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes, Ben Simmons, Dante Exum and others have headlined the Australians playing in the world’s leading league, and Mills, Dellavedova and several others have come through the Gaels’ doors in Moraga, California. Lauren Jackson was dominating well before the last five years, and there are tons of Aussies dotting the WNBA now, like Liz Cambage, Leilani Mitchell, Alanna Smith and more. Australia is yet to medal in the men’s Olympic tournament, finishing fourth four times (1988, 1996, 2000, 2016), but have brought home four medals in the women’s event, winning three silvers (2000, 2004, 2008) and two bronces (1996, 2012).
Canadian basketball has been blowing up lately, especially in Ontario. Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Jamal Murray, Brandon Clarke and RJ Barrett and some of the budding (or bloomed) stars in the league now, Bridget Carleton, Kia Nurse, Natalie Achonwa and Kayla Alexander lead the way in the WNBA, and men’s and women’s college basketball both have countless Canadians on rosters now. Canada has only ever won one Olympics basketball medal – a silver medal in the men’s competition in Berlin in 1936 – but perhaps that will change in the not-too-distant future. And don’t forget, the inventor of the game was Canadian.
There isn’t a long list of New Zealanders in the NBA or WNBA – Steven Adams, Aron Baynes (who is a dual national of Australia and New Zealand) are the only modern ones, and Megan Compain begins and ends the list of ever New Zealanders in the WNBA (excluding a few with various ties). The country has never won a basketball medal at the Olympics, and only once has it finished in a single-digits place in an Olympic competition (eighth place in the 2004 women’s tournament). Still, according to what New Zealanders search on Google, it’s one of the places where basketball is most popular on the map.
Lithuania (Score: 21)
Serbia (Score: 21)
Dominican Republic (Score: 18)
Kenya (Score: 17)
Ireland (Score: 15)