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Overview of Basketball in the United States

Basketball in the United States
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls with head coach Phil Jackson in 1997; together, the duo won six NBA championships in the 1990s
Country United States
Governing body USA Basketball
National team(s) United States
Registered players 24.3 million[1]

Club competitions


  • Men’s:
    National Basketball Association (Major League)
    NBA G League (first tier Minor League)
    East Coast Basketball League (second tier Minor League)
    Premier Basketball League (second tier Minor League)
    The Basketball League (second tier Minor League)
    American Basketball Association (semi-pro)
    Florida Basketball Association (semi-pro)
    Universal Basketball Association (semi-pro)
    United Basketball League (semi-pro)
    Women’s National Basketball Association (Major League)
    Women’s Basketball Development Association (first tier Minor League)
    Athletes Unlimited Basketball (second tier Minor League)

International competitions

Summer Olympics
FIBA World Cup
FIBA Women’s World Cup

Basketball is the second most popular sport in the United States (counting amateur levels), after American football.[2][3][4] In terms of revenue, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is the third most profitable sports league in the United States and the world, after the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB).[5] According to the National Sporting Goods Association, over 26 million Americans play basketball regularly[clarification needed], more than any other team sport. Basketball was invented in 1891 by Canadian physical education teacher James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts.[6]

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the world’s premier men’s professional basketball league and one of the major professional sports leagues of North America. It contains 30 teams (29 teams in the U.S. and 1 in Canada) that play an 82-game season from October to June. After the regular season, eight teams from each conference compete in the playoffs for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.[7][8][9] The NBA gets high ratings on television.[10][11]

Race and ethnicity[edit]

Main article: Race and ethnicity in the NBA

The composition of race and ethnicity in the National Basketball Association (NBA) has changed throughout the league’s history.[12][13][14][15]

By 2020, 81.1% of players in the NBA are Black (if mixed are also counted as black), 17.9% white, 12.5% mixed race (mostly half-black half-white), and 1.1% of other races.[16][17] The league has the highest percentage of Black players of any major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.[18] As of 2020, the NBA’s viewership appears to be predominantly Black and Hispanic.[19]

National teams[edit]

U.S. men’s national basketball team at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Since the 1992 Summer Olympics, NBA players have represented the United States in international competition and won numerous important tournaments. The Dream Team was the unofficial nickname of the United States men’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics.[20] The Women’s national team has won eight gold medals at the Olympics.[21][22]

High school Basketball[edit]

See also: List of U.S. high school basketball national player of the year awards

High school Basketball is a popular activity.[23][24] The National Federation of State High School Associations featured 541,479 boys and 429,504 girls in basketball teams as of the 2014–15 season.[25]

Many high school basketball teams have intense local followings, especially in the Midwest and Upper South.[citation needed] Indiana has 10 of the 12 largest high school gyms in the United States,[26] and is famous for its basketball passion, known as Hoosier Hysteria.

College Basketball[edit]

See also: College basketball

College basketball is quite popular and draws TV high ratings.[27] Every March, a 68-team, six-round, single-elimination tournament (commonly called March Madness) determines the national champions of NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament men’s college basketball.[28][29][30][31][32][33][34]

Women’s Basketball[edit]

See also: Women’s basketball

The Women’s National Basketball Association or WNBA is an organization governing a professional basketball league for women in the United States.[35] The WNBA was formed in 1996 as the women’s counterpart to the National Basketball Association, and league play began in 1997.[36] The regular WNBA season is June to September (North American Spring and Summer). Most WNBA teams play at the same venue as their NBA counterparts.[37] The WNBA is the premier professional Basketball league for women in the world.[38][39] Despite being the premier women’s basketball league the WNBA struggles to attract a large mainstream audience.[40][41] Women’s NCAA Basketball is also popular, although less so than men’s basketball.[42]

The women’s national team has won eight Olympic gold medals and ten FIBA World Cups.


  1. ^ Number of participants in basketball in the United States from 2006 to 2018 Statista
  2. ^ “Major League Baseball still leads the NBA when it comes to popularity – Business Insider”. Uk.businessinsider.com. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  3. ^ “Sports – Pro Football is Still America’s Favorite Sport”. Theharrispoll.com. 26 January 2016. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  4. ^ “Harris Poll – NFL still most popular; MLB 2nd”. Espn.com. 26 January 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  5. ^ “The Harris Poll”. Harrisinteractive.com. Archived from the original on 3 January 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  6. ^ Catalina Logan. “The Effects of the Game of Basketball on America”. Livestrong.com. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  7. ^ “New Documentary Explores History of Jews and Basketball”. Npr.org. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  8. ^ American Hoops: The History of United States Olympic Basketball from Berlin to Barcelona. 1 January 2006. ISBN 9780542864469.
  9. ^ Thomas, Vince (10 March 2010). “Basketball’s Forgotten (Black) History”. Theroot.com. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  10. ^ “Hoop Dreams: Multicultural Diversity in NBA Viewership”. Nielsen.com. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  11. ^ “TV audience for NBA Finals was more diverse than a decade ago”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  12. ^ Howard Nixon II (24 July 2015). Sport in a Changing World. p. 81. ISBN 9781317383789. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  13. ^ “Where have all the white American NBA players gone?”. Chicago Sun-Times. 19 November 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  14. ^ Spears, Marc J. (25 October 2016). “Where are all the white American NBA players? — Andscape”. Andscape. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  15. ^ Touré (14 June 2012). “Will There Ever Be Another Black America’s Team?”. Time – via ideas.time.com.
  16. ^ “What Percentage of NBA players are Black (2019-20 season)?”. 16 June 2020.
  17. ^ “Adam Silver: NBA’s return-to-play plan ‘may not be for everyone’ | Pelicans | nola.com”. 16 June 2020.
  18. ^ Landrum Jr., Jonathan (11 February 2012). “First Black NBA Player Gets Honor at Hawks Game”. Archived from the original on 15 January 2014.
  19. ^ “• NBA interest in the U.S. by ethnicity 2020 | Statista”.
  20. ^ Sean Gregory (13 August 2016). “Rio 2016 Olympics: Team USA Basketball Has A Problem”. Time.com. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  21. ^ Macguire, Eoghan (20 August 2016). “Olympics: US wins women’s basketball gold.com”. CNN. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  22. ^ Schreiber, Jay (20 August 2016). “Women’s Basketball USA – Spain Result”. The New York Times. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  23. ^ “Hidden demographics of youth sports – ESPN The Magazine”. Espn.com. 11 July 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  24. ^ “Why Is Girls Basketball Participation Declining?”. Forbes.com. 17 January 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  25. ^ 2014–15 NFHS participation survey
  26. ^ “largest Indiana high school gymnasiums”. Indianahsbasketball.homestead.com. Archived from the original on 12 July 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  27. ^ Simon Rice (17 March 2016). “March Madness: With even Barack Obama involved, why are college sports so popular in the United States?”. The Independent. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  28. ^ “Ten years in, the NBA’s one-and-done rule is no less controversial”. Espn.co.uk. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  29. ^ Patterson, Chip (28 January 2014). “College basketball sliding in Harris Poll of sport popularity”. CBSSports.com. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  30. ^ “More on college hoops and popularity – Men’s College Basketball Blog”. ESPN. 14 January 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  31. ^ “9 reasons college basketball is better than the NBA | For The Win”. Ftw.usatoday.com. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  32. ^ Sean Gregory (14 March 2015). “March Madness: College Basketball Struggles During Regular Season”. Time.com. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  33. ^ David Hein. “A European’s view of US college basketball’s March Madness | David Hein | Opinion”. The Guardian. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  34. ^ Jones, Gordie (13 March 2015). “The state of college basketball? Dismal”. Myajc.com. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  35. ^ Sandomir, Richard (28 May 2016). “After Two Decades WNBA Still Struggling For Relevance”. The New York Times. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  36. ^ Frank Hoffmann; Robert P Batchelor; Martin J Manning (23 May 2016). Basketball in America: From the Playgrounds to Jordan’s Game and Beyond. p. 249. ISBN 9781135419936. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  37. ^ “COLUMN: In 20th season, WNBA still struggling | The Daily Courier | Prescott, AZ”. Dcourier.com. 7 June 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  38. ^ Tingley, Kim (2 September 2019). “The W.N.B.A. Is Putting On Some of the Best Pro Basketball in America (Published 2019)”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  39. ^ Fagan, Kate (31 March 2016). “Fagan on why lower rims in women’s basketball is flawed”. Espn.com. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  40. ^ Levin, Josh (20 October 2009). “How to fix the WNBA”. Slate.com. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  41. ^ “Adam Silver can save the WNBA | For The Win”. Ftw.usatoday.com. 29 January 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  42. ^ “Women’s College Basketball Taking It To New Heights”. EBONY. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.

External links[edit]