The quality of the game, the spectacle and the glamor of the NBA stars seduce men and women alike in Brazil. In a land where soccer is religion, the American Basketball League is making its way at a steady pace.
Emiliana Ramos sealed her love affair with the sport of baskets in the 1990s by watching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s exhibitions at the Chicago Bulls. Now 42, this product manager for a Sao Paulo tech company thinks every season about which quintet and player to back.
«Basketball is treated as a show, it is a product, so it draws attention because it is not only about the game, but it has marketing, marketing of shirts. There is a movement a bit similar to soccer in Brazil, “he tells AFP at a sports club in the north of the Latin American metropolis, where he plays basketball.
Some of her teammates on the amateur team Fulaninha wear Los Angeles Lakers jerseys or generic NBA prints. Ramos is wearing No. 1 for Zion Williamson, power forward for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Like her, thousands of Pelé’s compatriots join the ranks of the most powerful basketball league in the world each season. In the first half of 2021, the NBA registered 45 million fans in Brazil, 31% more than those reported at the beginning of 2019, according to a measurement by the firm IBOPE Repucom.
– ‘Priority market’ –
Without renowned Brazilian athletes in this competition, the South American giant has become the “second priority market of the NBA” outside the United States, behind China, says Rodrigo Vicentini, representative of the competition in the Latin American giant.
The country “is extremely important, very strategic for the league and for the development of basketball,” he says. “We will continue to grow here regardless of the religion of football.”
The NBA officially landed in 2004 in Brazil with the aim of expanding the fan base in this nation of 213 million inhabitants and with some memorable triumphs in basketball, such as the victory against the United States in the final of the Pan American Games-1987.
Since then, it has organized matches between teams from both countries, opened basketball stores and schools, agreed to agreements with the Brazilian Basketball League (NBB) and promoted the television broadcast of the games.
The result: a continuous growth driven, according to Vicentini, by the Brazilian taste for sports, the predilection of the new generations for consuming various disciplines and an aspirational question related to the NBA brand.
On the iconic Paulista Avenue, in Sao Paulo, or on Copacabana Beach, in Rio de Janeiro, it is not uncommon to see people with LeBron James, Stephen Curry or the late Kobe Bryant t-shirts, accessories or caps.
“A lot of them may not know who LeBron James is, but why are they wearing his shirts? Because they accompany his ‘look’ », points out Vicentini.
Neymar or Lionel Messi, football stars, have contributed to break the barrier between both sports by posing with basketball team outfits.
– Brazilian peculiarity –
The tall Alana Paludo Chiochetta, 26, wears a purple T-shirt of James, a Lakers star who challenges Jordan as the best basketball player in history.
This administrator from Paraná (south) remembers when she saw him play for the Miami Heat during a trip to the United States in 2011. Now she honors him from a distance by wearing his colors in Fulaninha training.
Fevered with basketball since the age of ten, every season, Chiochetta follows the play-offs. “I got involved and then I couldn’t stop,” he says.
She embodies a peculiarity of the NBA in Brazil: women make up almost half (45%) of that league’s fans and tend to have a strong bond with the competition, which translates into more knowledge of the game and the rules than men. , according to Vicentini.
«It is a number that attracts attention. Traditionally, there has been a majority consumption by men, “says the manager, without knowing how to explain the reasons for the phenomenon.
Previously delighted only by football, the women of the family of Pedro Nunes, a player for Corinthians de Sao Paulo, who participates in the NBB, now also watch basketball games.
“There are many people watching the NBA, I am increasingly impressed,” says Nunes. “Many of them never played basketball and now they come to tell me about it. Sometimes they know more than I do. AFP (HN)