Basketball betting

This all-action sport is immensely popular in many ways: people love to play it, watch it and also to wager significant sums of real money on it.
It sits inside the top 10 most-watched sports worldwide, though by some measures it is second only to football in terms of overall popularity.
Basketball, of course, is most beloved in its home of the United States, where the National Basketball Association is king, but hoops has also surged in Asia, particularly China, and Europe.

Television and online coverage of the NBA is available globally and it is the most popular league with gamblers, with the amount wagered annually measured in the billions of US dollars.

Also read:
Guide to online sports betting
Sports betting staking plans

Brief history of basketball

The sport was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the United States in 1891, but the interesting part is that it was a Canadian who started it all off.

Doctor James Naismith, a physical education teacher at the YMCA, devised the game so he could keep his students occupied indoors during the cold winters.

He wrote the rules and nailed a peach basket to a wall in the gym, some 10 feet (3 metres) from the floor, the same height at which the basket remains today. Initially soccer balls were used but soon balls were made specifically for the new game, with no laces to interfere with bounce passes.

Basketball became an official Olympic sport for the 1936 Games in Berlin, with the US defeating Canada 19-8 to win the gold medal.

With the game becoming entrenched in colleges, it was not long until the professional game thrived and when the National Basketball Association was started in 1946 the game reached a whole new level.

It is the most watched league in the world but the levels of support for many of the other top leagues in Europe and Asia are almost as fanatical.

Quick guide to how basketball is played

Five players per side face off on a rectangular court with a backboard at either end behind a hoop 10 feet (three metres) off the ground. Teams score two points for getting the ball through the hoop, unless they take their shot from beyond the three-point line, which was adopted in 1979. Teams can also score points from the free-throw line in a penalty-type situation. Each shot from this line is worth only one point. Players must bounce the ball while moving in possession (called dribbling the ball). It is considered a limited-contact sport but the reality is there are many solid collisions in each professional game, with elbows flying under the basket.

Betting on basketball

The major sportsbooks will offer a great variety of bets on basketball, as it’s one of their major sports for turnover. We will just look at the main bet types for individual matches and some of the season-long offerings.

Money line (head to head): This is the simplest of all bets: simply select one of the two teams to win the game. If your team wins, so do you. But be warned that the odds on some of these head-to-head showdowns can be extremely short.

Handicap betting (lines): This is a form of bet that seeks to equalise the teams. One team will be given a start in points, and the other will have to win by a certain amount of points for your bet to be successful. For example, you may back Team A conceding a 5.5-point start meaning they must win by six points-plus for your bet to be a winner. Team B may have a 5.5-point start, meaning they must avoid losing by six or more points for your bet to pay off.

Total points betting (over/under): Another simple bet where you are betting on the combined scores of the two teams being over or under a certain figure. Some research into recent results can really pay off here and this is always a good bet type if you are really uncertain about which team will win.

Basketball futures: Most bookmakers will offer season-long bets on all sorts of outcomes; the most commons bets are simply on which team will win the league. These can really add some interest when the season gets down to the play-offs.

Best leagues for betting on basketball

National Basketball Association (NBA)
Founded: 1946
When it’s on: October-June
Number of teams: 30 (29 in United States, one in Canada)

The undisputed No.1 basketball league on the planet. And you should play in it if you can. Why? It has the highest average salary per player of any sport in the world. As at 2018 the average stood around $US6 million.

EuroLeague
Founded: 1958
When it’s on: October to April
Number of teams: 16
The teams change for this strong competition, with the top teams from leagues around Europe winning places. It is more or less the Champions League for European basketball. Games are held midweek to accommodate club matches at the weekends. The 16 teams play each other twice per season, once at home and once away and the league has been won by more than 20 different clubs. Real Madrid has been the most successful with nine titles as of 2018. It is second only to the NBA in terms of average attendances.

Liga ACB (Spain)
Founded: 1957
When it’s on: October to May
Number of teams: 17
Just like in La Liga football, this league is dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid, who have won more than 50 titles between them. The bottom two teams in the standings are relegated to the Spanish second division. Many players who have started off in this league are now regulars in the NBA, including superstars Paul and Marc Gasol. The league, though, is powerful enough to attract many former NBA players. Clearly the best domestic league in Europe.

Israeli Super League
Founded: 1954
When it’s on: October to June
Number of teams: 12

Maccabi Tel Aviv is the dominant force, and also more than hold their own on the European stage, having won a neat half-dozen Euroleague titles.

Liga Nacional De Basquet (Argentina)
Founded: 1985
When it’s on: September to July
Number of teams: 20

An extremely powerful league and like many of the European league features a promotion-relegation system. Argentina’s league has produced many top-notch players, headed by the legendary Manu Ginobili, a four-time NBA champion. A true powerhouse of the sport, Argentina’s national team won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL)
Founded: 1966
When it’s on: October to April
Number of teams: 16
A powerful and well-supported league, both financially and by the diehard fans. Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahce are two of the top teams in Europe.

Russia’s VTB United League
Founded: 2008
When it’s on: October to April
Number of teams: 13
The top Russian competition, plus it includes clubs from Estonia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Belarus. Its aims is to bring together the best teams from northern and eastern Europe. CSKA Moscow have been the most successful club.

Germany’s Basketball Bundesliga (BBL)
Founded: 1966
When it’s on: September to May
Number of teams: 18
Some believe this league could become among the best in Europe as it is well funded and attracts plenty of fans, plus the German national team is on the rise. The league has produced the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, long-time power forward for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA.

Italy’s Lega Basket Serie A (LBA)
Founded: 1920
When it’s on: October to May
Number of teams: 16
Arguably the oldest professional basketball league in Europe and certainly among the best. Teams must have at least five Italian players on their 10-man rosters but many former and future NBA players have plied their trade in the LBA.

France’s LNB Pro A
Founded: 1921
When it’s on: September to May
Number of teams: 18
ASVEL, the Lyon-based club majority owned by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, has won the most French basketball championships.

Adriatic League (ABA)
Founded: 2001
When it’s on: September to March
Number of teams: 14
The ABA is a regional league including teams from Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its predecessor was the powerful Yugoslav League, which broke up after the 1991-92 season but not before producing superstars Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac and Toni Kukoc.

Greek A1 League
Founded: 1927
When it’s on: October to June
Number of teams: 14
Bitter Athens rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos dominate this league in much the same way as they dominate the Greek football league. Their derby clash is titled the Mother of All Battles. Teams can have up to six non-Greek players on their 12-man active rosters.

Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL)
Founded: 1979
When it’s on: October to February
Number of teams: 8
The NBL includes seven teams from Australia and one team from New Zealand and there is the possibility of expansion into the massive market of China.

Lithuania’s LKL
Founded: 1993
When it’s on: September to April
Number of teams: 10

Basketball is like a religion in Lithuania and the LKL was the first professional sports organisation in the country of 3 million. Its teams played in the Soviet League until Lietuvos krepsinio lyga was founded, soon after the country gained its independence.

Chinese Basketball Association (CBA)
Founded: 1995
When it’s on: October to February
Number of teams: 20
Asia’s top league and foreign players are limited to two per team and can play a total of six quarters combined. Former NBA star Yao Ming owns the Shanghai Sharks, where his playing career was launched.

South Korea KBL
Founded: 1997
When it’s on: October to April
Number of teams: 10
Under KBL rules, each team can have two foreign players. The KBL has held an annual draft in Las Vegas where teams can choose their imports, to give the less financially strong teams their chance at landing the best on offer. The league is considering free agency instead.

Baloncesto Superior Nacional Puerto Rico
Founded: 1929
Number of teams: 8

The league has produced many NBA stars, though the biggest claim to fame comes from the Puerto Rico national team, which beat the US Dream Team at the 2004 Olympics in a massive upset.

Tips for betting on basketball

Be wary of big spreads
When a game is secured there is the temptation for the coach to give his bench players an extended run and rest his stars. This can mean leads being eroded. So we tend to avoid backing the teams conceding big starts.

Injuries are more important than in other sports
With just five players a side taking the court at any one time, the loss or return of a superstar player can make all the difference. Mind you, some of the better teams may have enough depth to cover for even the best players. You just need to work out which teams have the versatility to cope with the inevitable injuries during what is a gruelling season. Bench players have a huge role to play regardless of injuries.

Over/under bets
It’s uncanny how often the line set by sports books is close to the mark. What you need to do to find an edge is look for teams that are starting to trend one way or the other. It might be something as simple as the fact a team is playing more patiently in offence, using somewhere close to the full shot clock on each visit down the floor (try the unders bet). Or alternatively, adopting more of a “run-and-gun” offensive approach (overs). You need to try to catch trends early and jump on for as long as the ride lasts.