In many cases the hardcore basketball fan does not exclude any level of the sport. From the lofty heights of the NBA to Austrailian NBL, Euro Ball to the Greek League or the BBL down to the lower NBL leagues, all of it is entertainment to the serious fan. The casual fan however, is perhaps a little more choosey with what they consume. NBA matchups are broadcast on BT Sport channels, which very often feature the early game in the States, starting from around either 5:30pm or 8:30pm UK time. If it is a later game, 1am or after, then the game is conveniently replayed at a more reasonable time, at least once the following day, on one of the BT Sport channels. Way more coverage than we can get for our own leagues, BBL and NBL combined.

For the sake of this comparison, we will look specifically at the NBA Vs the BBL. That said, when talking to some more casual fans, it is often clear that they are fairly au fait with the NBA. They know of Steph Curry and LeBron James. They are aware that Lonzo Ball is a highly anticipated rookie, and that the San Antonio Spurs are always a high ranked team and have been for an extended period. They don’t know equivalent facts in the BBL. They’ve not heard of Jaysean Paige and the Eagles unbeaten streak. They aren’t familiar with the Riders trying to defend their Championship. And the reasons are often quite common. Not publicised enough. Not on television enough. Very little media coverage available. These factors, we can obviously confirm and highlight a clear difference in comparing the NBA to the BBL. There is literally a game every single night, televised on one of many sports channels available in America, with 30 teams playing 82 regular season games not including the playoffs, there are more matchups to choose from. There are less games in the BBL, but every weekend there are plenty of games on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, not to mention the odd Saturday evening game as well. Granted not as many games as our American cousins, but more than enough entertainment for fans to sink their teeth into.
With the publicity of the British game an obvious difference, it is the other reasons making fans turn to the NBA before considering the BBL that is of interest. Reasons that often arrise are statistically based. The game is not as fast as the NBA. Their isn’t as many points scored, making it less exciting. Shooting is worse in the BBL and missed shots makes for a less exciting game. All these “issues” we shall tackle now and consider if these things are true, or if it is more the lack of media coverage that keeps the BBL in the dark somewhat.

The speed of the game is something I struggle to see, both as a fan and logistically. The British game is much shorter than an NBA game, which does not really effect game play, only to say that you literally have less time to beat your opponent overall, which means crunch time and those moments in the clutch seem to come around quicker than in an NBA game. The real time restraint that effects the shape of the game is the shot clock. It literally dictates how quick an offense can be. The discrepancy here is that it is the same in both the NBA and the BBL, eradicating the issue of the speed of play. The slightly smaller BBL court, it could be argued, also makes transition play faster, as it takes less time to get from defence to offense. Either way, the argument that the game isn’t as fast is pretty much debunked straight away.

“There isn’t as many points scored” or “they don’t score much in the BBL” is something demanding a deeper look into the state of both professional leagues. Taking a small sample from the top teams in the NBA compared with the top teams on the BBL would perhaps not be enough, as the popularity of British basketball on the whole is in question, so those stats combined with a selection of the bottom teams of both leagues should give us a broader view when tackling this complaint. Looking then at the top and bottom teams in the NBA and BBL, the points per game look like this:

NBA Top 3:

  1. Boston Celtics 102.9
  2. Golden State Warriors 117.9
  3. Houston Rockets 112.6

BBL Top 2:

  1. Newcastle Eagles 105.6
  2. Leicester Riders 84.1

NBA Bottom 3:

  1. Dallas Mavericks 99.1
  2. Atlanta Hawks 102.8
  3. Chicago Bulls 95.5

BBL Bottom 2:

  1. Leeds Force 78.3
  2. Manchester Giants 75.7

There are three from the NBA and only two from the BBL, just because there are more teams in the NBA. At face value, the argument that BBL teams score less is supported with these stats. Even the bottom 3 NBA teams out score the top BBL teams. However, these stats need further dissection for one simple oversight. NBA games are 8 minutes longer overall, with quarters of 12 minutes instead of 10 minute quarters in the BBL. So, it would be more accurate if we can work out average points per minute, so here are the figures with points per game:

NBA Teams:

  • Celtics 2.14 ppm
  • Warriors 2.45 ppm
  • Rockets 2.34 ppm
  • Mavs 2.06 ppm
  • Bulls 1.98 ppm

BBL Teams:

  • Eagles 2.64 ppm
  • Riders 2.10 ppm
  • Force 1.95 ppm
  • Giants 1.89 ppm

With this new information does not support the complaint that BBL teams score less. They do score less, but due to the reduced playing time, the ratio of points per minute is actually on par with those teams in the NBA. The Eagles in particular, outscore the Warriors, who have the highest points per minute in the NBA, by .19 ppm. It’s fair to say from these figures that the scoring ratio is very similar if not the same. As a result, it cannot be a lack of scoring that turns fans to the NBA over the BBL, as they will see as many points scored over the same amount of time.

Looking further into the individual stats and the complaint that players on the BBL aren’t as talented and miss more than players in the NBA, it seems that this argument is not particularly true either. The top ten NBA percentages range from 100% at the top, down to 70.7%. In the BBL it is 100% down to 59% which although lower by 11.7%, isn’t that much of a drop off when you consider just how many players play in the NBA. As a percentage, ten players in the BBL is nearly 10% of the entire league. 10 players in the NBA is only 2% of the entire league. It would be more accurate to take just 2% of BBL field goal percentages. As a result, again it suggests that missed shots is an invalid complaint against the BBL, as the top 2% shoot as well as the NBA.

There are a host of other stats available to fans and interested parties. All of which seem relative when compared accross the two very separate leagues, although perhaps not that different. What they all seem to point to is that it is not the on court play that leads the more casual fan to consume NBA games over BBL games, but the off court activities and investments that make it easier to watch NBA fixtures. Attending regular live BBL games, as well as watching is as entertaining, if not more so than watching the NBA. The difference does seem to call in the lap of how our game is marketed and how there is very little hype surrounding our British teams and the host of talent within.