For the history of humanity, soccer (futbol) has been hands down the world’s most popular sport and it really has not even been close, that is until now. Basketball is quickly growing into a sport that is positioned to challenge soccer for the throne. You may be thinking this is because of reasons such as the Colin Kaepernick in the NFL, or the rather boring nature of an MLB game, but neither are the true reason behind surge of basketball fever… It’s China! It may not seem obvious, but its strictly a factor of population. China accounts for 1.37 of the 7.7 billion human beings on Earth which is nearly 20% of the entire population.
Personally, I always assumed that if you did not live in the U.S., then you were mainly a fan of soccer, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. This summer I was fortunate enough to travel to various cities in China including Shanghai, and Beijing. What I found out was that the people of China have a tremendous love for basketball, specifically the NBA. I remember walking past the blacktop courts one hot summer day where the temperatures were reaching near 100°F, and there was ALWAYS someone out there getting buckets. By 5 O’Clock the courts were absolutely filled to the brim with hundreds of people playing pickup. Me being me, I thought I would go out there and absolutely dominate and they would see me as the equivalent of Kobe or Jordan… But boyyyy let me tell you the Chinese can straight ball. There is no lack of skill, and no lack of heart when it comes to the blacktop courts in Shanghai!
I asked my fried Liu (native to Beijing) why the people of China had such admiration and love for the game of basketball, and he answered so brilliantly that now it is clear as day. Liu said because the population density in China is so high, the governemnt has to find ways to encourage an active lifestyle, but do so in a cost/space efficient way. Liu asked me how large a soccer, or football field was and then proceeded to ask if I thought either field would fit anywhere in downtown Shanghai.. my answer was obviously no, and then Liu finished by stating that basketball courts are EVERYWHERE in Shanghai because you can fit 6 courts on the same amount of land that you can fit 1 soccer field. so instead of 22 people playing 11v11 soccer, they have 20 people playing half-court pickup totaling 120 people all at once. This was an eye opening revelation to me. There was even a basketball court in the sacred Forbidden City in Beijing!
As populations grow (especially in Asia), and social media slowly gets less regulated by Chinese governments expect to see the NBA become the world’s most watched sports organization. The players will follow the money (which China is more than willing to pay a washed up NBA player), and the fans will follow the players. Basketball is an international sport that connects all kinds of races, ethnicity, cultures, and minds with each other, and will continue in a positive and growing way!