Is basketball popular in Europe

US sports in Europe: can basketball and baseball keep up in this country?

You shouldn't fool yourself: despite the defeat at the last World Cup, Germany is one of the largest football nations and Europe as a whole is doing well in many areas of sport. However, basketball and baseball are clearly American sports whose European counterparts - even if Dirk Nowitzki was the first European player to receive the Most Valuable Player Award - cannot really keep up. Does the situation really look that drastic? Here is a comparison of Europe vs. USA in basketball and baseball.


Surprisingly, basketball has a long tradition in Germany: just five years after the invention of the sport in 1891, basketball was played for the first time in Germany. The first German championship did not take place until 1939.

In an international comparison, however, German basketball cannot keep up with the NBA. The German national team celebrated their greatest success a quarter of a century ago when they won the European Championship in 1993. At the EM 2005 a silver medal could be won. Even in a European comparison, Germany is rather average, but at least sends some players to the NBA such as Maxi Kleber and Daniel Theis. First and foremost, of course, Dirk Nowitzki, who has already been elected to an All-NBA team 12 times and was the first German player to win the NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks. He is also the top scorer of the German national team with over 3,000 points.

American dominance and German upheaval

Overall, however, basketball as a sport is not as popular in Germany as it is in the USA: While the NBA recorded 22.1 million viewers in the 2017/18 season, the German BBL only had 1.4 million viewers. In return, the total turnover of the BBL teams rose to a record-breaking 120 million euros, according to basketball betting provider Betway. The trend is reflected in the increasing interaction of fans with the sport: basketball bets are very important here, and the same can be said for the sale of merchandising items. The Nowitzki jerseys are clearly the most popular. The potential can still be increased. In Germany, less money is spent on promoting young talent and there are fewer exceptional talents: the pool of potential stars is simply not big enough, which is due to the lack of awareness of the BBL. That could change with the 2019 Basketball World Cup. Germany is already being described by experts as a "growing basketball nation", reports Welt. In addition, the country meets France in the World Cup and has escaped a difficult group by luck. The BBL has also set itself the goal of becoming the best national league in Europe by 2020.

Compared to the rear

Where Germany falls away, you can see in a direct comparison with the best NBA teams. ALBA Berlin led the German table 2017/18 with 89.68 points per game. The American Golden State Warriors, however, got 112.8 points per game. So in order to turn the statistics around, a lot has to be done. First and foremost, the popularity of basketball needs to be increased. On the part of the national team there was a change after the missed World Cup qualification in 2014, the positive effects of which were evident at the 2017 European Championship, when they failed only in the quarter-finals against Spain and thus confirmed the positive overall impression of recent years. The trend curve is therefore pointing upwards. Nevertheless, it will take some time for German superstars like Dirk Nowitzki, Dennis Schröder or Maximilian Kleber to be represented in the NBA in greater numbers.


But what about baseball? It is not for nothing that baseball is considered a national sport in the USA. Major League Baseball was able to turn over the equivalent of over nine billion euros in the 2018 season. The German baseball Bundesliga does not even come close to these numbers. The German national team is also in the international midfield: In 2005 the team qualified for a World Cup for the first time, the greatest success so far was the third place at the 2010 European Championship in their own country. Otherwise it looks less convincing: Germany is not a major player in baseball, European teams are unable to shake the dominance of the USA. In Europe, the fans are focused on the American teams and prefer to follow the MLB (Major League Baseball): Fan shops are filled with articles about the MLB, the European teams, on the other hand, are neglected. This clearly shows the dominance of American baseball. In summary, it can be said that the situation for European baseball teams looks worse in an international comparison than for basketball.


Basketball and baseball are still American-dominated sports. While baseball is hardly ever a green branch in Europe, the situation is fortunately different with basketball: More and more German players make it into the NBA, the BBL soon wants to be a pioneer in Europe. Here the dominance of the USA could at least be less pronounced in ten years than it is today.