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Could Basketball Ever Become the Most Popular Sport in the World?

Much has changed on the global basketball scene since the original Dream Team stormed its way to Olympic gold some 22 years ago.

The sport is now a fixture in most (if not all) of the countries on Earth. Last season, the NBA boasted 92 international players hailing from 39 different countries and should feature more on both counts this fall. Spain, from which five of those aforementioned 92 came, is once again the epicenter of basketball's biggest event of the summer: the newly rebranded FIBA World Cup of Basketball.

As far as basketball has come in recent decades, it still has a long way to go to catch up to the world's pre-eminent sport: soccer. While FIFA's World Cup is a global phenomenon filled with excitement and drama, with every match beamed into homes across the Seven Seas, FIBA's version has yet to garner such broadcast clout (only Team USA games have been broadcast on television domestically thus far). New Paragraph

While FIBA World Cup may never enjoy the same worldwide cachet as the FIFA World Cup, there are a few signs that basketball is closing the gap on soccer's stronghold as the world's most popular sport. 


Sizing Up the Competition 
New ParagraphTo be sure, basketball has got its work cut out for it. By just about any measure of popularity—from revenue to viewership to social media—soccer's lead would seem nigh on insurmountable.

According to the consulting firm A.T. Kearney, basketball, as represented by the NBA, constituted about 6 percent of the global sports market in terms of revenue generated in 2009, at 2.7 billion Euros. Soccer, on the other hand, swallowed a staggering 43 percent of the market, with a take of 19.5 billion Euros.

Much has changed in the last five years, though, particularly for basketball.

According to collective bargaining guru Larry Coon, the NBA's latest increase in its salary cap points to a projected basketball-related income (BRI) of $4.75 billion for the league in 2014-15. That number could jump considerably in the years to come, thanks in large part to the flood of revenue that's expected to flow from the NBA's upcoming renewal of its national television pacts.

For the moment, then, that leaves the NBA slightly behind the English Premier League in total revenue. According to BBC News' Bill Wilson, the EPL broke the £3 billion mark—which translates to right around $5 billion—for the first time ever in 2013-14.

Unlike the NBA in basketball, the EPL isn't the only billion-dollar conglomeration in the soccer world. According to Deloitte, Germany's Bundesliga, Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A, France's Ligue 1, Brazil's Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A and the Russian Premier League all checked in above $1 billion in revenue as of 2012-13.

And that's not including the 22 other soccer leagues around the world—including MLS and the second-division groups in England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan—that rake in more money than does basketball's second-biggest association, Spain's Liga ACB, which brought in just under 107 million Euros (i.e., a shade over $140 million) in 2011-12, per Spanish outlet's Alfredo Matilla and Juan Jimenez (via Wikipedia).

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