Team Basketball

The Numbers Inside The Hoop

Photo: haizon/iStock

Basketball continues to be the most-popular team sport in the U.S., from the point of view of participation. According to figures released by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), there are 28.1 million Americans, ages six and above, who play basketball. The second most popular team sport in the U.S. is baseball with 15.5 million participants.  

• The growth in basketball participation has been solid and steady since 2016, when there were 22.3 million players.

• In 2017, there were 2.9 million basketball players in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 24. In 2018, that number was 3.1 million and in 2019, it was 3.4 million. By 2020, the number of basketball players in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 24, had grown to 3.8 million. That number inched up to 3.9 million in 2021 and reached 4.52 million by 2022.

• One of the clouds on the hoops horizon concerns the numbers for casual and core participation. Back in 2019 (pre-COVID), there were a total of 24.9 million players, of which 9.7 million were casual participants and 15.2 million were core. By 2022, the number of casual participants had grown to 13 million, while core players dropped to 15.1 million.

• Another basketball demographic worth reviewing is where children (ages 6-to-17) are playing basketball. For youngsters age 6-to-12, 37 percent are playing pick-up games at home, in their neighborhood, or at a public park; 40 percent of them are playing at school in a P.E. class; 32 percent are members of a school team; 33 percent are playing in a local recreation league program; and only 9.2 percent are playing on a travel team.  

• For the 13-17 age group, the numbers begin to change as more youngsters (39.4 percent) are playing pick-up basketball among friends, family members, neighbors and classmates; about the same (43 percent) are playing basketball at school in a P.E. class; substantially more players (47 percent) are members of a school team; fewer players (18.6 percent) are playing in a local recreation league; and slightly more (12 percent) are playing competitive travel basketball.

“Basketball has the highest percentage of new participants in both age groups and has gained approximately three million new players in recent years, no doubt helped by the activity’s popularity as a pick-up sport,” explains SFIA president and CEO Tom Cove. “It also had nearly four million core participants in the 6-to-12-year-old segment and nearly 3.5 million core players in the 13-to 17-year-old group.

“Meanwhile, basketball is the only the team sport played by 6-to 12-year-old set where the participation rate for both genders is in double digits,” Cove adds.

• In a separate report, the NFHS, based on figures collected during the 2022-23 school year, indicate the strong level of popularity of high school basketball for both girls and boys in the U.S. Basketball remains the number one sport for both girls and boys, in terms of the number of schools that sponsor teams in the U.S. For girls, 17,881 high schools have a basketball team; for boys, 18,368.  

• Girls’ basketball ranks fourth with 373,366 participants and boys’ basketball ranks third with 537,438 participants.

• The top five states for girls high school basketball participation are Texas (43,648 participants), California (29,007), Pennsylvania (20,910), Ohio (16,048) and Illinois (15,078).

• The top five states for boys’ basketball high school participation are Texas (61,695 participants), California (45,836), Ohio (29,088), Illinois (22,415) and Pennsylvania (21,420). Two other states report more than 20,000 boys high school basketball players: Michigan (20,662) and Florida (20,243).

• Meanwhile, the SFIA’s most current Manufacturers Sales by Category Report reveals that the basketball sector is growing. Wholesale sales of basketball equipment (backboards, basketballs, nets, rims and other accessories) were $631.6 million in 2022, up 39.3 percent since 2019.

• In the team uniform category in 2022, wholesale sales of basketball uniforms were $273.5 million, an increase of 27.2 percent from 2019. Of the five uniform categories (baseball, basketball, football, soccer and volleyball) tracked by SFIA, the basketball category had the strongest statistical rate of growth from 2019-2022.

• In the all-important basketball footwear category, wholesale sales of basketball shoes in 2022 were $1.251 billion, a 12.6 percent increase from $1.111 billion in 2019. Of the five major team sports footwear categories, basketball was the only one to have a double-digit increase in wholesale sales from 2019 to 2022.