What is Sky Sports role in the growth of basketball in the UK? Tom Maydew investigates.

Quite a lot, its leading figures believe, after acquiring the rights to both the British Basketball League and NBA over for the last four years.

Stuart Hodge, the content chief for Sky Sports NBA keeps the media channels up to date for all UK fans as part of a partnership agreement with the US-based league that also includes broadcasting live and delayed games and other content, including from the WNBA which begins this weekend.

That access bring a significant impact, he claims.

“The fact that Sky has free live streams of the NBA and free live streams of the BBL I think that helps in terms of ensuring it goes on to become the main broadcaster,” he said.

“Sky took on the rights and netball was grown as a sport. The cognisance and the popularity of the sport has grown, and the respect of the sport has grown with the sport being shown live on Sky Sports.

“The exact same thing is happening and will continue to happen with basketball. I think within the people who love the sport, they know there is going to be an explosion of basketball in the UK. And since Sky took up the rights 4 years ago, Sky has been the place to watch basketball.

And in terms of the BBL as well, Sky has supported that like never before – if you look at the quality of the broadcast and the pundits and just the level of respect that has been shown with the coverage, I think the BBL is beginning to reflect what Sky is doing.”

As well as the NBA, the importance of growing the game here domestically is important for Sky. The broadcaster shows a live BBL game every Friday night and broadcast each knockout final throughout the year.

Hodge believes showing the BBL on Sky can follow a similar growth path to leagues such as English football’s Women’s Super League by bringing in more families and kids to the games who don’t think it’s suitable to go to a men’s football game.

“Look at the Women’s Super League in this country, when they started showing it on TV, all of a sudden people started thinking that could be a good night out, let’s take the kids.

“I think it’s fair to say when you go to a Premier League or Championship men’s game you are going to hear someone swearing profusely.

“I think there is less chance of that happening at a WSL game because of the demographic and there is less chance of that happening at a BBL game because people are there to enjoy the sport and enjoy watching the participants. So I think the BBL and netball will follow similar patterns to the WSL and with the organic growth of the sports, arenas will continue to fill up.”

A must-watch for many basketball fans in the UK is NBA Sunday live on Sky Sports. The show shows live broadcasts of two NBA games presented by Jaydee Dyer and expert analysis from Sky’s Mo Mooncey and three-time NBA champion BJ Armstrong.

Hodge senses the importance each of them have in growing the sport here in the UK and how they aren’t the only ones doing their bit to help the sport.

“I think they have been very important, but I think people like Martin Dyan are equally as important for the sport with things such as building courts. I think the likes of Martin are just as important as the BJ Armstrong’s, your Mo Mooncey’s and your Jaydee Dyer’s.

 “I think Mo has been incredible in terms of the credibility he has brought in terms of being a UK voice analysing basketball.

“If you put Mo on any US show, he would not be out of place. And I think being a voice from the UK and understanding every element of the game and the culture around basketball inherently from a very young age is a big thing and is really important.”

Stuart believes the addition of Armstrong has been a big step for Sky with credibility he brings to Sky’s NBA programme.

“I have the pleasure to write his article every week,” he says. “The guy was the locker buddy of Michael Jordan for years. There are moments when you do this in the industry and you think how did I get here? He’s telling me stuff no one even knows about undeniably no matter what sport, one of the greatest athletes ever.

“Having BJ on the coverage for Sky was a big step for Sky when they managed to secure that because it lent a real gravitas to it. Having BJ Armstrong to give you that insight.

“I mean Mike Tuck and Kieran Achara were great players, but they haven’t got three rings. I think having BJ on the coverage is really big for Sky’s credibility and I think the product is strong now.”

Despite the strides Sky Sports are making in growing the game of basketball and the credibility of the sport in this country, some argue the sport still has a long way to go in gaging the older demographic like the NFL has successfully done in recent years.

“I always thought basketball would be like the NFL,” Hodge adds, “if you look at the journey the NFL went on when it came to the UK.

“Bbut I think there is a difference there, because the nature of the sport in the most basic fact is that it’s played on a green field rather than a wooden court. I think that’s why more of the 40 to 50-year-old demographic are more willing to give the NFL a chance and not so much basketball because it’s an indoor game.”

He believes for maximum growth of the sport in the future, Sky should focus on gaging a younger demographic like the MMA and the UFC which have done so well.

“I think the audience that is coming through school or just completing school – that’s where the key audience is for basketball.

“I think boxing and MMA are similar in the sense that predominantly under 25’s watch MMA and I think that that’s the age group that likes basketball and will be on Sky sports NBA and other platforms in 10-20 years’ time.”

Sky’s Mr. Basketball has a vision for where the growth of sport will come from in next few years.

“20 years ago, when I was at school, basketball was so niche,” he underlines.

“But now there are so many programmes where you can play and maybe that will be the trigger for the explosion of basketball in the next 20 years.

“You hope in the next 20 years that that wave of people where basketball is naturally part of their life, that’s what creates an eco-system where basketball is engrained in the culture.”

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

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