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Basketball - Age Breakdown

According to our findings, there was a total of 24.3 million basketball players in the United States in 2017. Of this number, 74% is the percentage of players that played basketball for fun in the United States, i.e. amateur basketball players. Additionally, the highest percentage of amateur basketball players in the United States are below the age of 18 years, while the lowest percentage are between the ages of 50 and 64 years.


In our search for the age breakdown of amateur basketball players in the United States, we started by focusing on industry reports, articles, biographies, blogs, basketball clubs, non-professional basketball players, tournaments, and leagues. Through the use of an extensive research process, we were able to find the percentage of amateur basketball players, a total number of all basketball players and the age breakdown of basketball players in the United States. Our findings were used to triangulate an answer to the research question that will follow in latter sections.

We first searched for the details of amateur basketball players in the United States in industry reports and articles. Because the United States is among the top countries in the world when it comes to basketball, we hoped information on the age breakdown of non-professional players was publicly available. Using this strategy, we targeted resources such as NBA, CBSports, Bleacher Report, PRNewswire, Global Sports Matters, and SFIA, but they only provided details of NBA players and similar professional-level basketball players.
Next, we started to search for information on street-playing level players, hobby clubs, and junior teams in previous interviews, surveys, and basketball focus groups. However, this strategy was unsuccessful because no relevant information on amateur basketball players was available in the target resources.

To triangulate the required information, we searched for the total number of basketball players and the age group of basketball players in the United States. We were able to locate this information on Statista. Next, we started to search for the share of amateur basketball players in the United States from the available Statista data. In this search, we found a share of basketball players in the United States that play the sport for fun. With all this information, we triangulated a credible answer with the assumption that the share of basketball participants in 2017 would provide the required information of the age breakdown of amateur basketball players in the United States.


In 2017, the number of basketball participants in the United States was 24.3 million.

The percentage of basketball players by age group in the United States follows below:

74% of basketball players play the sport for fun.
***Amateur Basketball Players in the U.S.= Number of Basketball Participants in the U.S. x Percentage of Basketball Players that Play for Fun.
***Amateur Basketball Players in the U.S. = 24.3 million x 74% = 17.982 million.
Consequently, the calculation of amateur basketball players in the U.S. by age follows below.

  • 18 to 29 years = 17.982 million x 26.54% = 4.772 million
  • 30-49 years = 17.982 million x 22.89% = 4.116 million
  • 50-64 years = 17.982 million x 6.72%= 1.208 million

We assumed that the remaining amateur basketball players in the U.S. are below 18 years. With this assumption, we calculated this number as shown below:

***Amateur Basketball Players Below 18 Years in the U.S. = 17.982 million - (4.772 million + 4.116 million + 1.208 million) = 7.886 million.

***Percentage of Amateur Basketball Players Below 18 Years in the U.S.= (7.886/17.982) x 100 = 43.85%.


From the information presented in the triangulation and calculation section of our research methodology above, we concluded that:

  • 43.85% of amateur basketball players in the U.S. are below 18 years.
  • 26.54% of amateur basketball players in the U.S. are between 18 and 29 years.
  • 22.89% of amateur basketball players in the U.S. are between 30 and 49 years.
  • 6.72% of amateur basketball players in the U.S. are between 50 and 64 years.

Lastly, 74% of children and adolescents play basketball for fun and the below 18 years age group is the largest group of basketball players in the United States.
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Basketball - Competitive Spirit

While there is no publicly available information to fully answer your question, we've used the available data to pull together key findings: from training advice columns and an informal survey of YouTube videos, tricks and trick shots are a popular subject among amateur basketball players. On the other than, at least younger players put a much higher priority on having fun than beating the competition. Below you'll find an outline of our research methodology to better understand why the information you've requested is publicly unavailable, as well as a deep dive into our findings.


We began our research with Google's Scholar database, hoping to find academic studies or surveys on the sociology of amateur basketball, or even amateur sports in general. Unfortunately, there was a surprising dearth of material on this subject, with the vast majority of papers on the topic focusing on health issues surrounding amateur and youth sports and participation levels. Broadening our search criteria to material older than our usual two-year age limit (as is sometimes necessary when dealing with academic papers due to their long publication cycles) did not provide any further relevant material.

We therefore stepped out of the academic world and began searching trusted mainline media publications for reference to surveys and studies that might answer the question. We also studied the reports of polling organizations like Pew, Gallup, and Nielsen. Again, the emphasis in every article and study that provided real survey data was on youth health and participation (and the lack thereof) in amateur sports. We will discuss some of these findings below.

Since mainstream media sources all too often mentioned amateur sports in the context of or in comparison to professional sports, we recognized that it was possible that the information needed was simply buried. We, therefore, next looked to sport-specific media sources like Global Sport Matters, BYL Training, and Basketball For Coaches. While this provided some minor data points, which we will again discuss below, the information was insufficient to triangulate a percentage of interest among amateur basketball players in tricks and competition.


As noted above, the overwhelming emphasis in recent studies has been on tracking the health and participation of youth and young adults in various sports, including basketball.

Two main facts emerged from the data, which perhaps explain why there is a lack of information, or even interest, in how many amateur basketball players are interested in doing tricks or competing with each other. The first is that there has also been a decrease in participation in "pick-up" games among young people, though how much of a decrease isn't stated. To quote a 2016 paper in Pediatrics journal, "It is less common today to see a group of young children congregate in a neighborhood to play a 'pick-up' game without any adult influence. The norm has become for children and adolescents to participate in organized sports driven by coaches and parents, often with different goals for the game than its young participants."

The second is that there is less long-term commitment to sports among youth, with 70% of kids quitting sports by the age of 13, according to a recent Forbes op-ed piece. While that doesn't mean that they quit physical activity altogether — the Forbes article author describes her own daughter continuing to play intramural sports and backyard basketball games — there is also a definite drop in core participation in team sports ("engaging in a sport 50 or more times per year") in favor of casual participation.

While quantitative data isn't available, there is some evidence among sports sites that amateur players do like learning some tricks with a basketball, at least in the realm of tricks that are actually useful in the game. For example, an article on training tips and strategies published in Basketball For Coaches includes advice on practicing for shot fakes, various rim finishes, fancy groundwork, and so on. Likewise, YouTube videos showing how to perform basketball tricks and trick shots routinely receive millions of views. (Unfortunately, YouTube's sort filters have been broken since mid-March, so we are unable to sort by view count to determine the amount of traffic the top videos get.)

In terms of competition, while competition goes with the game, 9-in-10 youths playing team sports say that they're in it for the fun, while "winning" is in 48th place on a list of 81 things youth find fun about playing. For girls, winning is dead last as a priority. Insofar as "competing" is equated with "winning," among youth at least, it is not a priority (note that the above-reverenced paper was published in 2015, but we could find no more recent update to it).


While it is generally possible to triangulate a quantitative answer to a given question from the available data, this is one of those cases where there simply have not been one or more studies from which we could build a model. However, the information that is available to us suggests that basketball tricks and trick shots are a popular topic among amateur players, but that competition--at least in the sense of putting a priority on winning--is less crucial. If further information is required, it is possible that a 2017 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association will be of use. This report costs $245.00 for non-SFIA members, so we advise contacting the organization to learn more about what is contained in the report before purchasing.