What It Means to be an Urban Sport
|January 22, 2012||Posted by ReubenFB under Geo-Analysis|
For those following the whole Turner debacle , to kiss and make up I asked the residents of Turner to help me finish , which broke down the country by NBA fandom and left western Montana blank. The responses have trickled in, and by and large it seems that people in this part of Montana, well, just don’t care about the NBA. This led me to ask, are rural areas in general less likely to follow professional basketball?
In April 2011, the Seton Hall Sports Poll Center conducted a on a variety of sports topics. 495 respondents said they followed sports, and were asked, “Which would you say you are following most closely, the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs or regular season major league baseball?” These results were adjusted slightly prior to release, but in the raw data that the Sports Poll Center provided 31% voted NBA, 14% voted NHL, 43% voted MLB, and 12% didn’t know/didn’t respond.
Awesomely for us, the Sports Poll Center also recorded the geolocation by county of their respondents. To look at the urban/rural divide of respondents, we can use US Census data on the the population density (shown for 2000 in the map above) of the counties of the respondents. Here are the results:
NBA followers lived in counties that were 46% more densely-populated than the counties of respondents who chose other sports (p = 0.08). Now if you know anything about the NBA or demographics, there’s a pretty big elephant in the room. African-Americans make up 14% of the US, but they make up 78% of the NBA and 87% of them live in metropolitan areas (vs. 79% for the country as a whole). Are we just seeing a racial effect, with more black NBA fans clustered in more densely-populated counties?
To control for race, let’s see what happens when we only look at the answers from the 384 respondents who identified themselves as white:
The percent voting for the NBA drops from 31% to 24% and across the board population density drops, but white NBA followers still live in counties that are on average 38% more densely populated than the counties of respondents voting for the other options (p = 0.10).
This may be because basketball is fundamentally an . A basketball court is 1/12 the size of football field, 1/17 the size of a soccer field, and 1/19 the size of the average MLB field, much better adapted for major cities where available space is at a premium. Before urban courts were dominated by African-Americans, basketball was once – believe it or not – described as “ ,” thanks to the Jews natural shortness, speed, balance, sharp eyes, and clever minds. These explanations were obviously crap; in the 1930′s Jews clustered in cities, so they came to play basketball. Tellingly, the two Jewish NBA players are both still in New York City.
In the last decade, American cities have slowly become less African-American and more . In 2010 Jeremy Lin became the first Asian-American NBA player since 1947. That year the NBA had five US-born Latino players , and the number of college players is growing . If it was possible to put money on a such a thing, I would bet that in the next decade the NBA will see its first US-born MVP of Hispanic descent.
Twenty dollars. Who wants it?
For more Sports Nation Divided coverage on race and basketball, . Special thanks to the Seton Hall Sports Poll Center and Samba Binagi for this feature.