Basketball or Volleyball: What Sport is More Popular?

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Playing sports is a great way to be in great shape, and it doesn’t hurt that you have a lot of options at the table. The good news is that you literally have dozens to choose from, two of which are basketball and volleyball. But have you ever asked yourself which sport is more popular? Is it basketball or volleyball? You are about to find out.

How Popular is BasketballHow Popular is Basketball?

Basketball popularity has steadily climbed over the years. According to a United States research, 27.1 million people over the age of 6 have played basketball at least once in the year 2021. Eight million of them have played at least 13 times. 

All over the world, the number is almost half a million basketball players. Basketball icons such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James have contributed a lot to the rise of the sport’s popularity over the past decades. 

If there are around 500 million basketball players in the world– recreational and professional–, it has got even more fans. According to statistics, basketball has 2.2 billion fans worldwide in 2021, just behind cricket and football. The fast-paced nature of basketball, coupled with a global network and marketing plan, makes it one of the more widely popular sports.

10 Countries Where Basketball is Popular

Basketball has already encroached on continents, so expect these countries to be from all over.

1. United States (also tops basketball searches on the Internet)

2. Canada 

3. Argentina

4. Russia 

5. Spain 

6. Australia (#3 in basketball-related searches online)

7. China

8. Brazil

9. Philippines (#2 in online basketball-related searches)

10. Serbia 

How Many People Play Basketball in the World?

In 2021, FIBA estimated that 450 million people in the world play basketball regularly. That’s a minimum estimate, and there could be more. There are 213 countries with a professional basketball league, and China, which is home to 1.4 billion people, is said to have 300 million basketball players. 

Although there is no way to tell if these numbers check out, basketball is a sport where you don’t need much of anything to get started. The NBA’s marketing machine has also gone international, and countries like China, with its unbelievable market potential, have been at the top of the list.

How Popular is VolleyballHow Popular is Volleyball?

Now, on the other end of the spectrum in the “basketball or volleyball” conversation lies the question, “How popular is volleyball?” Well, like basketball, it’s one of the most popular sports in the world in terms of participation. 

Where is Volleyball Most Popular?

Volleyball has a nine-figure following, and these countries have the most players and fans.

1. Brazil (Five Olympic gold medals between the men’s and women’s teams)

2. United States (Seven Olympic gold medals between men’s and women’s beach volleyball teams)

3. Russia (Four Olympic gold medals for the men’s team)

4. Poland (1 Olympic gold medal for the men’s team)

5. China (Three Olympic gold medals for the women’s team)

6. Germany (1 Olympic gold medal each for men’s and women’s beach volleyball teams)

How Many People Play Volleyball in the World

Worldwide, it is estimated that there are 800 million who play volleyball at least once a week. That number alone makes it even more popular than basketball as far as participation is concerned.

Volleyball has long been a sport with a giant following. It was said that volleyball had around 200 million registered players in 1994, and ten years later, that number climbed to 500 million. Of the 800 million who regularly play the sport, 46 million are from the United States.

Basketball or Volleyball_ Which Sport is HarderWhich Sport Has More Fans? Basketball or Volleyball 

Now, this is where it gets tricky. Basketball has more fans at over 2 billion (compared with volleyball’s 900 million), but volleyball has more regular players (800 million to basketball’s 450 million). 

There is no other explanation for this except that most basketball fans do not actually play but just like to watch. In the Philippines, for example, it’s not uncommon to see middle-aged women cheering for their basketball teams. On the other hand, most volleyball fans regularly play the sport, which explains why they have more players around the world than basketball does.

Basketball or Volleyball_ Which Sport is HarderBasketball or Volleyball: Which Sport is Harder?

The answer to the question of which sport is more challenging, basketball or volleyball, is subjective. However, looking at how the sport is played can help each one conclude which actually is the more difficult game.

Physical Aspect

Physically, basketball is much more challenging than basketball. That’s because sequences can be very long unless there are dead-ball situations. You need strength, stamina, and agility to cover your guy on the defensive end and pretty much the same skills to try to score on your opponent. 

The best basketball players on the team typically play over 30 or 40 minutes a night. In the NBA, that might entail two hours of real-time, and it’s common to see players get dehydrated after a hard-fought game. 

On top of that, basketball involved banging and pushing with the strongest, biggest guys. Imagine pushing around a 7-foot-1, 285-pound behemoth like Joel Embiid or boxing out 6-foot-10, 280-pound Steven Adams for position underneath the basket.


How the game is played can help you decide which sport is more difficult. Basketball is much more free-flowing and doesn’t require stoppages unless there are fouls and violations. That said, volleyball’s gameplay is probably more demanding because of different factors.

Consider this: In basketball, if you miss a pass or get the ball stolen, the play continues, and you move on. In volleyball, that’s not the case. You must always keep the ball alive, or the opponent secures a point. The average speed of a volleyball spike of an Olympic-level male player is 70 to 80 mph. Imagine getting hit with that in the face! And if you’re not blocking that thing with your face, your arms and body will take most of the brunt.

Defense is also tricky in volleyball. The three players at the back line cover most of the court. The three players in the front cover the net and block, but if they’re late, the back line absorbs most of the damage. This is why most people who haven’t played volleyball before couldn’t execute basic skills such as serving and passing. Such is not the case with basketball.

Team Play

Volleyball is more of a team sport, and you’re more likely to lose if there’s a definitive weak link. That’s not always the case in basketball. You can have one player who does everything and surround him with shooters and defenders, and you’re likely to succeed. Look what LeBron James did in 2018, and you’ll see. 

Of course, it’s always better for a team to have several dependable players, regardless of sport. The point is that team play is more crucial in volleyball than basketball, and that won’t change anytime soon.

Based on these factors, which sport do you think is more complex, basketball or volleyball? Well, they both are from different perspectives. On lower levels of competition, volleyball is harder because you need specialized skills to pull off services, sets, and spikes. It’s a minor miracle if a person who hasn’t touched a volleyball before can pull those off. On the other hand, lower-level basketball can get a player by if he’s tall or athletic.

Basketball may be more demanding from a physical aspect and on higher competition levels. The sport requires little to no rest, and players are constantly on the move. What’s more, higher levels of basketball competition don’t stop at tall, big, and athletic. You need to have the IQ and the smarts to know defensive coverages and offensive schemes.

Wrapping Things Up: Basketball or Volleyball: What Sport is More Popular? 

Basketball and volleyball are two of the most popular sports in the world. Between the two, billions of people tune in, and another billion play them regularly.

Basketball is most popular in China and in the United States. FIBA estimates that there could be 300 million basketball players in China alone and millions more in the United States and around the world. In volleyball, Brazil is the undisputed champ played by both men and women outdoors or on the beach. The United States, Russia, and China are not far behind.

While volleyball popularity and basketball popularity are never in question now, it pays to know which sport is more popular, basketball or volleyball. Well, the answer is not as easy as one would like. Volleyball has more players (800 million to basketball’s 450 million), but basketball has more fans (2.2 billion to volleyball’s 900 million). The most reasonable explanation is that most basketball fans do not actually play; they just watch and enjoy the games.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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