Basketball is a Southern sport.
James Naismith invented the game in the Northeast. Before the Seattle SuperSonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, no region had more NBA teams in any of the previous 40 years than the West. And the Midwest’s urban areas like Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee fit the stereotypical images of basketball hotbeds.
But when it comes to producing NBA players, the South reigns supreme. The South has generated more NBA players than any region every year since 1963:
That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise considering the South has held more people than any other region every year since the NBA began and has only increased its population lead in the following years:
But even accounting for population, the South led the NBA in players every year between 1964 and 2000, dominating during the 1980s and and 1990s. From 2001-2010, the Midwest held the top spot before the South re-claimed its advantage this year:
Intriguingly, the South was the last region to lead the league in players born per resident. The West (1947-49), Midwest (1950-52) and Northeast (1953-63) all had turns before the South’s 37-year reign.
If you’re curious about state-by-state (and the District of Columbia) data for the NBA and the other three major leagues, check out this customizable viz:
Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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