How Popular is the NBA Outside North America?

How Popular is the NBA Outside North America?

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of the most popular sports leagues in the world, and it has a huge following in North America. However, the league’s popularity extends beyond the borders of the United States and Canada. In this article, we will explore how popular the NBA is outside North America.

International Players in the NBA

One way to measure the popularity of the NBA outside North America is to look at the number of international players in the league. The NBA has a significant number of players from outside North America, including countries such as Spain, Australia, and Serbia. In fact, during the 2020-21 NBA season, there were 107 international players from 41 different countries on NBA rosters.

The NBA has also made a concerted effort to expand its reach globally by hosting games in international cities and countries. In recent years, the NBA has played regular-season games in Mexico City, London, and Paris. The league has also held preseason games in countries such as China, Japan, and Australia.

Television Viewership

Television viewership is another metric that can be used to gauge the popularity of the NBA outside North America. The league has broadcast partnerships with television networks in countries around the world, including Europe, Asia, and Africa. These partnerships allow fans to watch NBA games live or on tape delay.

According to the NBA, the league’s games reach 1.5 billion people in 215 countries and territories. The NBA also has a significant social media presence, with millions of followers on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Sports Betting Metrics

Sports betting is a popular pastime around the world, and it can also be used to gauge the popularity of the NBA outside North America. According to data from Nielsen Sports, nearly two-thirds (64%) of sports betters in Europe are interested in wagering on NBA games. This figure is slightly lower than other major sports leagues, such as soccer (67%) and cricket (71%). However, the popularity of betting on NBA games is steadily increasing in Europe.

For example, the usage of the Caesars promo code had seen a huge spike in the number of bettors. This is a testament to the popularity of NBA betting in Europe, as many online sportsbooks offer promotions and bonuses for wagering on NBA games.

International Revenue

The NBA’s international revenue is another indicator of the league’s popularity outside North America. In 2020, the NBA generated over $1.2 billion in international revenue. This includes revenue from merchandise sales, sponsorships, and media rights.

China is one of the NBA’s most significant international markets, and the league has invested heavily in the country. In 2019, the NBA’s revenue from China was estimated to be around $500 million. However, the league has faced some backlash in China due to comments made by a team executive regarding protests in Hong Kong. The controversy led to the NBA’s games being pulled from Chinese television and a decrease in revenue from the country.

International Fanbase

The NBA has a dedicated fanbase outside North America, and the league has taken steps to engage with these fans. The league has created international versions of its website and mobile app, which are available in multiple languages. The NBA has also launched social media accounts in different countries, allowing fans to connect with the league in their language.

The NBA has also created events specifically for international fans, such as the NBA Global Games. These games are played in countries around the world and feature NBA teams competing against each other. The NBA also hosts basketball clinics and camps for young players in different countries, helping to develop the sport at the grassroots level.

Challenges to NBA’s Global Expansion

While the NBA has had success expanding its brand globally, there are still challenges the league faces. One challenge is the time difference between North America and other countries. Many NBA games are played during North American prime time, which can make it difficult for fans in other countries to watch live.

Another challenge is the competition from other sports leagues. Basketball is not the most popular sport in many countries, and other leagues, such as soccer and cricket, have a much larger following. The NBA also competes with other basketball leagues, such as the EuroLeague and the Australian NBL.

Finally, the NBA’s expansion into international markets has not been without controversy. As mentioned earlier, the league faced backlash in China, which led to a decrease in revenue from the country. The NBA has also faced criticism for its approach to labor issues, with players from international teams expressing concerns about pay and working conditions.


The NBA has had mixed success in expanding its brand globally. While the league has made significant investments in international markets, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. Nevertheless, the NBA’s global popularity continues to grow, and the league is determined to continue its expansion into new markets around the world. With its strong fan base, partnerships with television networks, social media presence, and international events, the NBA will continue to expand its reach and become an even more popular sport globally.