A great lack of support – both physical and financial – is evident throughout the ranks of British basketball, but it’s perhaps no clearer than in the country’s premier basketball league, the BBL. Following multi-million-pound support prior to the 2012 Olympics, UK Sport withdrew it’s funding from the BBL in January 2013, unhappy with the national team’s poor performance at the games (Great Britain won just one 1 their 5 group games, failing to progress to the knockout stages).
But while it could be said that British basketball is struggling, basketball in Britain certainly is not.
A huge and ever expanding base of enthusiasm for american basketball, namely the NBA, is becoming increasingly more visible; take a walk down the high-street and you’ll spot 100 NBA uniforms for every Leicester Riders or London Lions jersey you see. Some of this may be the fashion choice of those emulating the styles of US music artists, but for the most part it’s proud basketball fans. Britain is hungry for the NBA, and in the age of unlimited broadband capacity and Sky Sports HD, it has never been more internationally acessible.
But British fans no longer need only cheer from across the pond.
The NBA has been staging regular season games in the UK since the mid-nineties, but when the New York Knicks met the Detroit Pistons at the O2 Arena in January 2013, the game sold out. That’s a crowd of nearly 19,000, which is just a touch above the average attendance for these teams on the other side of the water. But compare that with the 7,500 that attended the BBL Cup Final that same week, and it becomes a lot more significant. If you want to see what teh Brits are currently betting on as that is always a good indicator of where their hearts lie you can always check out http://betfair.com/ as it’s a popular choice for Brittish sports fans.
Without local pride in any team in ‘The League’, British fan’s interest tends to focus on those franchises boasting the most exciting players, with this driven by the smart way in which players are branded. Brits sporting current NBA champions Miami Heat jerseys will most likely be wearing the no.6 of MVP Lebron James, and they most likely have the no.23 shirt of James’ previous team the Cleveland Cavliers stashed in their wardrobe. Similarly, there has been a notable increase in online viewing figures of LA Clippers games in the past few seasons, who were relatively ignored before acquiring crowd-pleasers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
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