In terms of views and statistics, the NBA is one of the most observed professional sports leagues in the world with its exhilarating spectacle, yet the UK is still yet to fully appreciate the game of basketball.
Great Britain for the most part, is far too engrossed in football and its other patriotic pastimes such as cricket and rugby. Nonetheless, there is still a considerable amount of niche fans this side of the Atlantic who are always desperate for more NBA content.
Sadly, followers this side of the pond very rarely receive that exclusive content they desire. Time difference is often the initial point made in the argument, yet that does not stop other European nation’s such as Spain, France and Turkey to name a few who endorse the league greatly.
One plausible way the association can grow its influence is by the support of Premier League footballers, who stand as athletes with the ability to make a strong impact in their sporting communities.
Manchester United’s Paul Pogba alone has donned almost every NBA team’s jersey on social media this year, much to the annoyance of the devoted and loyal fan who may have hoped he had a special allegiance to just the one team.
Nonetheless, the number of people that are instantly objected to viewing those jerseys he wears alongside the basketball star the Frenchman is posing with is astonishing. And in turn, it’s easy marketing for the NBA due to the player’s huge social footprint.
During his time in Los Angeles on tour with United, Pogba linked up with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Toronto Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, amongst others.
And most recently, the Frenchman was hanging out with the Washington Wizards’ All-Star John Wall in the nation’s capital.
Boasting over 20 million followers between his Twitter and Instagram accounts, the former Juventus midfielder offers immense exposure. But does that mean his followers in the UK will take a serious and engaged interest in the basketball stars’ game? In reality, the answer is probably no.
Unfortunately, besides the loyal NBA enthusiast who stays up until the early hours of the morning watching their team compete, the half-hearted potential fan will only take an interest into the sport if its served to them.
Even the NBA Global Games - which now arrives to London every year - is often a celebrity-orientated event where the media is more fixated on the A-lists sitting courtside at the 02 Arena rather than the superstars on the court.
Star-spotting is almost a must for the media who feel they need to keep a portion of its viewers entertained. For example, if obtaining an interview with Hector Bellerin sitting courtside will grab the attention of Arsenal and football fans on the fence about watching the game they rarely consume, producers will jump at the chance.
There’s the hope that football fans will follow the interests of their favourite player, as ties between football and basketball are more prominent than expected.
Often flying under the radar, is the fact that LeBron James owns a small share in Liverpool FC and it’s a shame that he is rarely seen connecting the two popular sports.
Nevertheless, and annoyingly for the Anfield faithful, he did recently promote an interview with Henrik Mkhitaryan for the Uninterrupted, a digital media company founded by King James himself.
United’s skilful Armenian winger was also pictured with the current but possibly departing New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony whilst in Southern California.
Unintentionally or not, the Red Devils have done their fair share of marketing for the league this summer. But generally, basketball in England is still naively seen as an American sport, despite its immense popularity in many nations across Europe and the world now, which is why even the British Basketball League has struggled to garner more attention.
If the NBA is going to gain further acceptance in one of the globe’s largest consumer markets for sports, then maybe targeting the superstars the British public love, adore and sometimes relate to isn’t such a bad idea.
Footballers snapping pictures with basketball heroes isn’t necessarily the most viable way for a league to grow its fanbase, but it’s at least a start.