When talking about the most popular sports in the UK, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to hear basketball being mentioned. However, the sport has gathered some momentum over the last five years or so and is steadily rising in both participation and spectator numbers.
With this growth in popularity comes the increase in bets placed on the sport. Go to any main bookmaker online and you won’t struggle to find basketball betting among the array of sports to choose from. So, is basketball the next big betting market in the UK? We take a look at how UK basketball has gotten to where it is today and where it could go in the future.
Basketball in the UK has had a rather checkered past. Established in 1987, the British Basketball League (BBL) saw rapid growth in the early 1990s, most likely due to the rising popularity of the NBA in the UK, with Hall of Famer Michael Jordan coming to prominence in the sport and inspiring a generation to get involved in the sport.
For the next decade, basketball in the UK saw healthy progression, with record attendances and commercial sponsorship deals to even rival football, with the likes of Budweiser, Peugeot and Playboy all attaching their brands to the new venture. It looked as though basketball was going to be the most popular pastime besides football betting in the UK – that was until the early 2000s.
The new millennium saw a change in fortunes. ITV Digital, which was set to become the biggest subscription based sports channel in the UK, collapsed. The BBL were due to receive more than £21 million pounds in TV revenue as a result of the deal, but missed out on the essential funding. This led to multiple BBL teams such as Essex Leopards, Birmingham Bullets and the Manchester Giants pulling out of the league, with some franchises folding completely under the financial strain.
It’s taken a long time for basketball in the UK to recover. After sell-out crowds at Wembley Arena in 2012 and 2014; the 2015 BBL play-off finals took place in front of record crowds at the 02 Arena in London. Since then, franchises have continued to develop their facilities and build the necessary foundations for the sport to once again rise to prominence in the UK. The hard work that the BBL and the franchises have put in over the last decade looks to be coming to fruition, as Leicester became the first British basketball participant in Europe for 11 years when they played in the Basketball Champions League and the FIBA Europe Cup in the 2018/19 season.
With basketball in the UK now looking back on the rise, it would be no surprise to see an increase in the amount of bets placed on the sport as a direct result. An indicator that online bookmakers are taking the sport seriously can be seen when looking at the amount of markets that are on offer. It’s not just match outright odds, you can now bet on handicap, or ‘spread’ markets, winning margin and total match points to name just a few.
A recent study by the UK Gambling Commission estimated more than £14 billion is spent on gambling in the UK. Maybe it’s time for basketball to get a bigger piece of that pie.
The Most Important Basketball Matches To Bet On In 2020
With basketball and the NBA season set to restart on the 30th of July after a gap of more than 4 months, betting on the sport will now again be peaking. With that in mind, here is a set of 10 games that you need to think the most about putting your money on. This will be a list of important games to bet on, rather than important games to watch out for basketball action:
- Clippers vs Lakers, 30th July
The presence of the best player in basketball makes the odds lopsided in the Lakers’ favor. Their significantly superior record compared to the Clippers has given them the oddsmakers’ benefit of short odds on every remaining matchup. But betting on the Clippers in this game could turn out to be a really wise move.
Powered by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers can punch way above their weight and make you a killing on the +165 odds on offer.
- Celtics vs Bucks, 31st July
Normally, when the best team in basketball goes up against the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, the odds are supposed to be shorter. But Bet way has offered tempting odds on the Celtics in this game, giving a payout of +170 despite the fact that they have 3 players averaging 20 points per game.
While the Bucks, led by Giannis, have been in rude form throughout the season, the Celtics beat them early in the season by 12 points. Going with the Cs in this game will be a handy basketball gamble to make.
- Pacers vs Sixers, 1st August
The Sixes and the Pacers sit on exactly the same record (39-26). But the difference is that the Sixes are at full strength with the resumption of the basketball season, while the Pacers will miss Sabonis.
However, the line offered on Bet way of +195 on the Pacers is far too tempting for an avid gambler to pass up. You’d be well-advised to put your money on Pacers basketball for this game. Especially with the expected comeback of Victor Oladipo.
- Clippers vs Pelicans, 2nd August
The absence of Lou Williams due to a silly decision of going out to have chicken wings at Magic City will deplete the basketball roster of the Clippers for the first 3 games.
The Pelicans, on the other hand, will be at full strength, including the likely return of rookie sensation and #1 NBA draft pick in 2019 Zion Williamson. There are great chances that the Pelicans receive a +140 line or so and go on to win this basketball game.
- Clippers vs Suns, 5th August
The Clippers have gotten off to a sluggish start in the scrimmages, especially Kawhi Leonard. With the Phoenix Suns at full strength and Lou Williams likely to miss their first 3 games, there’s a good possibility that the Clippers will rest one of Leonard or George for this game.
The betting line will still be at least +140 in favor of the Suns, who will look to Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton to provide them with the scoring punch. A bet on the Suns wouldn’t go amiss on this game of basketball.
- Nuggets vs Trail Blazers, 7th August
The Nuggets are comfortably placed at 3rd in the Western Conference. They are likely to finish at that spot and have no basketball reasons to overexert their squad during the seeding games.
The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, sit at 9th in the Conference and will be aiming to make the playoffs. They are likely to receive a line of +1300 or better. Powered by Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Nurkic, the Blazers have a real shot at beating Denver in this game.
- Bucks vs Heat, 7th August
The Heat and the Bucks are separated by the significant margin of 12 games in the Eastern Conference. The two teams are well set to meet in playoff basketball given their status as the #4 and #1 seeds respectively.
The last time the Bucks played the Heat, Giannis had his worst scoring game of the season. The odds will definitely be quite short on the Bucks, so picking the Heat could prove to be a real steal on this one.
- Rockets vs Lakers, 7th August
The Rockets would be aiming to finish 5th in the Conference, tied as they are with the Thunder on a 40-24 record. Their faceoff with the Lakers would be a pivotal game of basketball in this path.
The Rockets are likely to receive a line of +130 or so for this game. They beat the Lakers in their last faceoff, after the Clint Capela trade. So going for a Rockets W for this game is solidly advisable on betting factors.
- Bucks vs Mavericks, 9th August
The Mavericks beat the Bucks in their first meeting of the season in Milwaukee, despite not having MVP candidate Luka Doncic in their ranks. Despite this, the odds line is likely to heavily favor the Bucks, to a tune of at least -450.
Betting on the Mavs, who’re likely to get a payoff of +150 or more, will be a handy pick. Basketball is a make-or-miss game, and the probability of the Mavs making their shots in this game seems pretty high given their size and versatility across the board.
- Nets vs Magic, 11th August
These two basketball teams are destined to meet each other twice in the bubble. While their first meeting will likely be quite competitive, by the time they meet the second time, the Magic will probably have secured 7th seed by a significant margin.
This would put the betting line in their favor, and the Magic would have the chance to rest its players before a possible playoff matchup repeat against the Raptors. Betting on the Nets in this game, for a prospective line of +140 or so, would be the way forward.
Liked “The Last Dance”? Try These Documentaries
Living through the biggest pandemic of the new millennium (so far, of course) is bad enough in itself… having to do so without live sports only makes it worse. The NBA is struggling to find a solution to the problems caused by the ongoing pandemic. The day the players step inside the court again is drawing close but sometimes it feels that it’s still way too far.
Reruns, YouTube videos, and documentaries like The Last Dance that can fill the void left by live sports in our souls. The latter is the perfect solution if you want to remember one of the greatest basketball teams in history, and while some may call it way too long (it has ten episodes filled with flashbacks and interviews, mostly focusing on Michael Jordan), others see it as the perfect way to pass the time until NBA finally resumes. And if it got you in the mood for more basketball documentaries, here are a few more to check out.
One & Done/Ben Simmons (Amazon Prime)
Born in Australia to a player at the Melbourne Tigers in Australia’s National Basketball League, Ben Simmons was destined to follow his father’s footsteps. He was torn, in turn, between basketball and his other passion, Australian rules football (a bit similar to rugby). He went with the first, though, and was pretty successful, too – at the age of 15, he was chosen to represent Australia at the 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Championship. His dream was to play in the NBA, a dream that he achieved by first playing for the Montverde Academy, then with the NCAA Division 1 team LSU Tigers.
His road from his first games in Australia to becoming the number one overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers is depicted in the Showtime documentary “One & Done”, released in 2016.
Iverson (Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, Play Store, Microsoft Store)
Allen Iverson (aka AI or the Answer) played 14 years in the NBA. During his career, he collected 11 NBA All-Star positions, two All-Star MVP awards, and was the NBA’s most valuable player in 2001.
Iverson was born in 1975 to a 15-year-old single mom. In high school, he played football and basketball, earning The Associated Press High School Player of the Year award in both sports. At 17, he was involved in a brawl, arrested, and convicted – he received an unusually harsh sentence. Upon leaving Richard Milburn High School for at-risk students, Georgetown University head coach John Thompson was waiting for him with a full basketball scholarship.
Two seasons into his college basketball career, he was signed – first overall – by the Philadelphia 76ers, starting his successful career in the NBA.
A biopic about his life, directed by Zatella Beatty, was released in 2014.
Basketball: A Love Story (ESPNPlayer)
Award-winning director Dan Klores asked NBA and WNBA players, coaches, commissioners, both active and retired, what made them fall in love with basketball. The result: 62 “short stories” divided into ten two-hour episodes where Klores and the team talk to pretty much every major basketball personality (with the notable exception of Michael Jordan and Gregg Popovich).
How The Hawks Beat Expectations At Home
- The Atlanta Hawks had an incredibly taxing season on their fans. The Hawks finished their regular season with a 20-47 record, the fourth worst record in the NBA, and an ATS record of 29-36-2. The Hawks were not invited to finish their regular season in Orlando. However, betting on the Hawks as home underdogs has been profitable for bettors. The Hawks were 15-10 ATS as home underdogs this season.
- The Hawks faced large spreads at home as underdogs as their losses started to pile up. However, Atlanta has never been as bad as their record suggests. The Hawks’ second best player, third-year power forward John Collins, was suspended for much of the season for violating the league’s drug policy towards growth hormones. Atlanta’s win-loss record was a dreadful 5-21 in the 26 games that Collins did not play. The Hawks’ win-loss record was a more respectable 15-26 in the 41 games that Collins did play.
- It should be no surprise that a team with as young a nucleus as the Hawks performs better at home than it does on the road. The five Hawks who led the team in minutes per game, Trae Young, John Collins, De’andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, and Cam Reddish are all under 23 years of age and none of them have played more than three seasons in the NBA. Young players are naturally going to play better where they are more comfortable.
- Atlanta’s ability to compete has always depended on the performance of point guard Trae Young. The first-time all-star was a much better player at home than he was away from Atlanta. At home, Young averaged 31.4 points per game, 9.9 assists, and shot 37.9% from the three-point line. Away from Atlanta, Young’s averages fell to 27.6 points per game, 8.7 assists per game, and just 34.1% shooting from the three-point line.
Misleading Win-Loss Record
Oddsmakers lost faith in the Hawks as their losses began to accumulate. Atlanta has been an ATS underdog in 55 of their 67 games. Their overall win-loss record is 20-47 while their overall ATS record is 29-36-2. However, the Hawks have been one of the best NBA picks against the spread for bettors as home underdogs. The Hawks are 15-10 ATS as a home underdog despite winning only 14 of their 34 home games. The Hawks have faced large spreads even at home because their win-loss record is misleading. Atlanta was a much different team this season with John Collins than they were without him.
The wheels came off the Hawks’ season when the NBA suspended Collins for 25 games after he tested positive for growth hormone. Collins is the second-best player on the Hawks and is one of their future building blocks. This season, the power forward averaged a career-high 21.6 points per game, a career-high 10.1 rebounds per game, and even shot a career-high 40.1% from the three-point line. Collins had the second best value over replacement player rating on the team and the highest win shares per 48 minutes of any player on the Hawks. Atlanta’s win-loss record with Collins was 15-26 while their win-loss record without Collins was 5-21.
A Young Nucleus
It’s no secret that young teams play better at home where they are more familiar with their surroundings and are not subject to the conditions of a hostile crowd. Trae Young, Collins, De’andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, and Cam Reddish led the Hawks in minutes per game this season. None of these five players have celebrated their 23rd birthday yet. Collins was in his third-year in the league, Young and Huerter were only in their second-year, and Hunter and Reddish were rookies. The youth of the Hawks’ core is reflected in the disparity between their performances at home and their performances on the road. The Hawks scored 114.6 points per game at home but just 108.8 points per game on the road. The Hawks surrendered 117.4 points per game at home compared to 122.2 points per game on the road. With a young nucleus Hawks fans should have something to look forward to in the future and may even be the consensus pick as the NBA team with the most potential moving forward.
Like most teams, the Hawks will only go as far as their best player takes them. Their point guard Trae Young is the Hawks’ best player. Young averaged 29.6 points per game, the fourth-best in the league, and 9.3 assists per game, the second-best in the league. The second-year player made the all-star team this season and has largely met expectations after the Hawks acquired him in the 2018 NBA draft through a trade with the Dallas Mavericks involving Luka Doncic. The Hawks made their backers money as home underdogs because Young played at a much different level at home than he did on the road. In Atlanta, Young averaged 31.4 points per game, 9.9 assists, and shot 37.9% from the three-point line. Away from Atlanta, Young’s numbers dipped to 27.6 points per game, 8.7 assists per game, and just 34.1% shooting from the three-point line.
Bettors will not have another opportunity this season to wager on the Hawks as home underdogs. Atlanta’s season is over as they were not invited to Orlando. However, bettors will likely still have plenty of opportunities to wager on the Hawks as home underdogs next season as oddsmakers will probably still treat Atlanta as a team not ready for primetime until they can string together something resembling a .500 season.