How popular is the NBA in the US?

Adam Silver
Adam Silver is responsible for the growth of the NBA. Photo from News Center.

In addition to the likes of baseball, American football, soccer, and ice hockey, basketball is one of the most popular sports to watch in the United States, and is often ranked as the third most popular out of the “big top five” with millions of people tuning in to watch each season.

Beating it to the post of being the most popular sport in the US are baseball and football, which consistently bring in larger viewing audiences and generate more of a general interest.

For example, across the 2020/20201 season, it was recorded that an average of 1.34 million viewers regularly watched NBA season games either on ABC, ESPN, or TNT.

This might sound like an impressive number, but viewership has actually dropped by around 17 percent since the previous year’s season, according to research published by Statista, and has hugely decreased since the 2017 NBA finals which pulled in 20.4 million viewers.

Comparably, the NFL’s 2016 Super Bowl had an audience made up of 111 million spectators. You’d think the NBA didn’t stand a chance at winning the hearts of America, but interest in the game and the players themselves has been growing since the 90s and Space Jam.

Why is the NBA so popular in the US?

There’s money to be made

With a little bit of research, NBA sports betting can be a way to win big and profit off of your love of sports. Fanduel’s NBA odds, for example, have great offers available. Not only this, but the basketball industry as a whole is incredibly profitable which helps improve the sport.

Shorter matches

Football isn’t going anywhere, but as life gets busier, it can be hard to find time to squeeze in a match that lasts for over 3 hours, whereas basketball games only last for around 2 hours. There has also been an increase in attendance at games with tickets becoming hot property.

Team rivalry

Everyone loves a bit of drama, so it’s no wonder that the rivalry between the Golden State Warriors and their competition, the Cleveland Cavaliers, sparked viewers’ interest. Social media has been a particularly great marketing tool here, helping to generate a buzz online.


Sports stars

The superstardom that some players were catapulted into through basketball is another reason for the sport’s popularity, with the likes of LeBron James and Michael Jordan drawing a huge following and generating great support for their team and the sport from their fans.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, while it doesn’t quite make it to the top spot of sports, the NBA is still incredibly popular in the US and this largely contributes to the success of this industry.

Without the fans, the supporters, and the viewers all taking time out of their days (and lives) to dedicate to watching, reading about, and taking part in NBA events, there’s no way that American basketball would be where it is now, or anywhere near as popular as it is today.

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