The first thing that comes to our mind when mentioning winter sports is the icy surfaces. However, you’d be surprised to learn that hard-surface sports like basketball are still played during the winter season, which has led many people to think of them as winter sports. The question, however, remains whether basketball qualifies as a winter sport or not.
Even though a typical basketball season in the US begins in fall, we consider the sport a winter sport because most of the games are played during winter. However, this view is not homogenous. For example, the Winter Olympics only consider winter sports those that are played on icy or snowy surfaces.
With that caveat, we will look into the different basketball leagues in the US, seeing which ones could be considered as a winter sport or winter league.
How Does Basketball Qualify As A Winter Sport?
Even though it’s not played on an icy surface, basketball is still regarded as a winter sport since most of the games are played and watched during winter.
Unlike other games, such as baseball and soccer, that take a winter break across the world and resume once the weather gets warmer, basketball adheres to its strict schedule during this period, contributing to the growth in its followers and fans.
Basketball was also invented during winter as a mode of entertainment when most of the popular sports had taken a break. However, in recent times, a typical basketball season begins in fall, runs through winter, and concludes earlier on in summer.
NBA is a very well-known basketball league in and out of the country. Other than the game itself, the reputation and the names of famous athletes have greatly influenced its popularity, pulling fans from across the world. It’s also one of the most lucrative sports we have today.
Is NBA Basketball a Winter Sport?
The league starts in fall and runs all the way to the early days of summer. There is no winter break, which is why it’s regarded as a winter sport. The league consists of 30 teams, each expected to play a total of 82 games.
The NBA undergoes two seasons, namely:
- The preseason: It starts towards the end of September and runs until October 18th. This gives athletes four weeks to prepare for the commencement of the season. The teams involved play a minimum of 2 games and a maximum of 4, with one game played home and one on the road.
- In-season – On October 22nd, the season officially starts, where 30 teams compete, playing 82 games in the season. Half of the games are played at home, with the other half played on the road. The season runs until April, when the playoffs begin.
There is a two-week break in the season to accommodate the NBA All-Star game in mid-February.
(Sources: NBA, The Game Haus)
WNBA is the female version of the NBA. Although it falls behind in popularity compared to its male counterpart, this league has been around since 1996. It’s the only female professional basketball league in the country.
Is WNBA a Winter Sport?
WNBA’s season begins in April and runs all the way to September, making it a summer sport. There has been some effort to move WNBA to fall and winter to boost its popularity, but the idea has been met with resistance.
The league consists of 12 teams competing for the title, with 34 games played in the season. WNBA begins with preseason in late April and early May, with the season commencing only a few days later and ends in early September.
Like the NBA, the WNBA has an All-Star game that takes place towards the end of July.
(Sources: Medium, WNBA, Spokesman-Recorder)
College basketball is governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCA) and is put in two categories:
- NCAA men’s basketball
- NCAA women’s basketball
The two competitions have the same starting and conclusion dates, with the college basketball schedule broken down into four sections:
- Non-conference play
- Conference play
- Conference tournaments
- Postseason tournaments
The non-conference play takes place in November and December, and the games are played around the country in a variety of towns and cities. The best teams in these tournaments are included in the NCAA tournament.
Is College Basketball a Winter Game?
Given that college basketball begins in November and concludes in April, it’s safe to say that college basketball is a winter sport since most of the games are played during winter.
A typical team is expected to play anywhere between 25 and 35 games in a season. However, this number could be influenced by many factors, such if the team participated in non-conference play or not.
The number of colleges participating in this event, particularly in Division 1, is around 350.
(Sources: NCSA Sports, NCAA, NCSA Sports)
High School Basketball
High school basketball has built a fierce following, particularly from hometowns where the schools are located. A long history of family legacies is what has inspired such loyalty to these high schools.
Is High School Basketball a Winter Sport?
A typical high school basketball season begins shortly before Thanksgiving. However, some schools wait a few days after Thanksgiving to begin their season. The season concludes in late March or early April and is played throughout winter. Going by this information, we can conclude that high school basketball is a winter sport.
The first stage is the tryouts stage, where the coach assesses the interested members by putting them through a series of physical and tactical challenges. The games are played twice or three times a week and usually happen on the weekends.
(Sources: Dunk or Three, Gssiweb)
Is Basketball Included In Winter Olympics?
Although basketball is played during winter, it’s not included in the Winter Olympics. The main reason for the exclusion is that basketball is not played on icy surfaces, unlike other games played during the Winter Olympics.
However, the fact that this sport is played during winter and is regarded as a winter sport has led to calls for it to be included in the Winter Olympics. By doing so, people believe it would help to improve the popularity of the Winter Olympics, since it’s a high-profile sport with a huge following. The main challenge is that the International Olympics Committee (IOC) defines a winter sport as that played on an icy or snowy surface. Since basketball is played on a warm and dry surface, it’s not officially recognized as a winter sport by the IOC.
Despite the idea of joining the Winter Olympics sounding impressive, professional basketball leagues would be required to set aside two weeks midway through the season to allow athletes to compete in the winter Olympics. Taking a pause mid-season could impact the basketball league and extend the season by a few weeks. However, it’s not impossible given that a similar time frame is allocated to the All-Star game in mid-February.
The benefits of including basketball in the Winter Olympics, such as increased viewership and popularity, outweigh the challenges posed by these changes. Currently, basketball is played in the Summer Olympics.
(Sources: USA Today, HuffPost)
Basketball is a year-round sport with the most popular tournaments such as NBA, College basketball, and high school basketball being played during winter. The WNBA is the only basketball league to be played out of the winter period. The IOC has failed to recognize basketball as a winter sport simply because it doesn’t take place on an icy surface, despite calls to include it in the Winter Olympics tournament.
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