Across almost every nation, sports is not just entertainment, but can be closely linked to the national past time; the culture.
Depending on where one lives in the world, the most popular sport in one’s country varies — sometimes it’s due to the geographic composition, the weather or perhaps it was introduced by outsiders. Just because you live in the United States where American football is the most popular sport doesn’t mean that there are not similarly large followings in other sports such as baseball, hockey or basketball.
Worldwide, we have seen the popularity of basketball continue to rise over the years due in large part to the NBA’s expanded marketing efforts abroad and the popularity of superstars like LeBron James and recently retired Kobe Bryant. Similarly, although you will see that football (or soccer) remains the overall most popular sport throughout Africa, there are a number of countries such as Nigeria and South Africa where basketball is significantly growing in popularity.
Put together with available information online, the following is a listing of the most popular sports in the world, sorted by country and continent. Please feel free to comment about additional countries or if you find information that contradicts our data
|Continent||Country||#1 Sport||#2 Sport|
|Africa||South Africa||Football (Soccer)||Cricket|
|Asia||Thailand||muay Thai||Football (Soccer)|
|Europe||United Kingdom||Football (soccer)||Cricket|
In Europe, futbol dominates. Cricket is a very popular sport in countries that have ties to the England. At this point in history, there’s no more popular sport than futbol (soccer). Baseball, cricket and rugby all come in at a distant second and third place to Football.
Surprisingly basketball’s reach is sporadic at best. The 3rd most popular sport in the United States, basketball is the top sport in Lithuania and Philippines. It isn’t as wildly popular globally… yet.
What’s Next? The Increasing Popularity of Basketball Globally
Thanks to the NBA’s purposeful globalization strategy and transcendent popularity of players like LeBron and Stephen Curry, the popularity of basketball has dramatically increased outside of the United States over the last four decades. That’s not even mentioning the international stars — such as Marc Gasol, Tony Parker, Kristaps Porzingis and Dirk Nowitzki — that have helped to increase the sport’s global visibility.
Throughout China, Europe, and South America, the total number of countries that now host competitive basketball leagues and tournaments have continued to increase.
The NBA Finals as a result, are now broadcast in more than 200 countries each year, and depending on the year, one will find players from more than 10 countries represented on the rosters of the teams participating for the NBA championship.
The sweet spot for basketball’s popularity worldwide is between November and June each year — which is the months in which NBA plays. China, Philippines and Turkey are two of the largest markets after the United States, and basketball has become a major sport in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
Although it is still considered a fringe sport in India, basketball also has shown an increasing audience in Japan, Nigeria, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Australia over the past decade giving creedence that the sport is arguably the second most popular sport in the world.
Only time will tell if basketball will dislodge football (soccer) as the most popular sport world-wide, but if American football starts to lose any traction with all of the safety concerns over CTE, the time of basketball being the most popular sport in the world could be here before you know it when combined with the continued International growth of the sport.