As the sport of basketball and the NBA continue to grow in popularity in countries and continents around the world, it’s no wonder that the globalization of the sport has generated a widespread and diverse fan base. And it’s not just global at the fan level. In this year’s NBA finals, for example, players on the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs squads represented seven different countries, ranging from Argentina to New Zealand.
This slow and steady multicultural expansion of the NBA, which began when the U.S. formed the original “Dream Team” for the 1992 Olympics in Spain, has also helped broaden the appeal of the sport among viewers in the U.S., particularly when the competition heats up during the finals.
The U.S. TV audience for the NBA finals has shifted over the last decade. In 2003, the TV viewing audience of the finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the New Jersey Nets was 63 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic and 27 percent African-American. In 2012, the five-game series between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma Thunder, 51 percent of viewers were white, 13 percent were Hispanic and 36 percent of viewers were African-American. What’s more, viewership among African-Americans jumped about 123 percent over that decade-long span.
The trend in diversity continued this year, as Hispanics made up 16 percent of the TV audience during the 2013 finals, a 31 percent increase in viewership from a year ago. White viewers’ share of the audience increased slightly from a year ago to 52 percent, while African-Americans’ share fell to 34 percent. Asian viewers accounted for nearly 8 percent of this year’s audience, compared with 11 percent in 2012.