Basketball popularity has exploded in the last few years, as more people than ever are tuning in to watch top leagues. There’s also the goal for younger players to play professionally and not have to worry about getting a job.
Every single NBA fan is very much aware that the best players in the world suit up for one of the 30 teams. However, there are plenty of other professional leagues out there that allow people to play.
Here’s a look at the 15 best basketball leagues in the world, with no surprise at #1.
15. Chinese Basketball Association
- Country: China
China has the money and the fanbase to be a power in basketball, but it’s more of a novelty act than anything at this point. A big reason why is that teams can only have two foreign players each, leaving the rest of the work to Chinese-born players.
What ends up happening is that a few teams have an ex-NBA player putting up a huge amount of points while their Chinese teammates feed in the ball. It catches headlines once in a while, but it won’t be taken seriously as a league until there’s more talent from top to bottom on each roster.
- Country: Lithuania
For the second time on this list, a league gets a bit of a boost thanks to LaMelo Ball. He made headlines when he played in the LKL as a youngster who was young enough to still be in high school in the United States. What people realized is that there was quite a bit of talent in that league beyond Ball.
There might not be a ton of athletic talent, as the Lithuanian league is all about older players who can play an old-school style of basketball. To the average viewer, it can seem like stepping back in time and watching games from the 1990s.
13. A1 League
- Country: Greece
Even though it’s technically a league, the A1 League pretty much consists of Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. The two teams are based in Athens, and they have a rivalry that goes back for a very long time.
Until the rest of the league can spend the type of money as the two top teams, this is never going to be an amazing league overall. Some of the weaker teams have lost fan support as well.
12. Adriatic League
- Countries: Former Yugoslavia Countries
People are obsessed with basketball in the countries that make up the Adriatic League. Now that they see locals like Luka Doncic and Nicola Jokic turning into true superstars in the NBA, that’s not about to die down anytime soon.
They don’t have the money to keep some of their top talent home, but it’s still a very competitive league from top to bottom.
Fan support is always going to keep the Adriatic League pretty competitive as well. Pay attention to young talent, because they will likely not be there long-term.
11. LNB Pro A
- Country: France
There’s a ton of talent coming out of France every single year, but the league as a whole hasn’t been able to make themselves amazing. Teams like ASVEL can hold their own against anyone, but the depth isn’t there for them to be much better than this current ranking.
They do get a bit of a boost for the next year or two with Victor Wembanyama showcasing his talents for ASVEL. The 7‘2“ big man is considered one of the most promising young talents in basketball.
10. Lega Basket Serie A
- Country: Italy
The Italian league has been around forever, but roster limits don’t exactly make it easy for teams to compete with the best in all of Europe. They can only have a few players on each roster from outside the European Union, and there has to be a set amount of Italian players on each roster.
Italian talent that eventually makes it to the NBA has also dried up a bit in recent years. This hasn’t helped Italy differentiate itself from some of the other mid-tier options in Europe.
9. Basketball Bundesliga
- Country: Germany
Stuck in mediocrity for years and years, the Basketball Bundesliga is getting a little bit better overall. A lot of money has been poured into the top teams, and marketing has stepped up as well. With solid fan bases, all it takes is for a few young German players to spark additional interest.
They don’t tend to have a ton of NBA prospects in the league, but Dirk Nowitzki did inspire a generation to hopefully follow in his footsteps. Mostly younger prospects will be German-born, as teams rely on older veterans to round out the rosters from the United States.
8. VTB United League
- Country: Russia
It remains unclear just how much the league will be affected by everything going on with Russia. There are a lot of players currently not wanting to go over there anytime soon. That could mean that they will need to rely mostly on Russian-born players to keep things going.
Most basketball fans have heard of CSKA Moscow, as they are constantly contenders in all of Europe. Instead of relying on younger players, the Russian league is a bit more reliant on veterans who know how to play the game and can gel as a team.
7. National Basketball League
- Country: Australia
Less than a decade ago, the Australian National Basketball League barely made the top 10. Now, a lot of the teams are throwing money at younger players in the United States to entice them to come over before playing in the NBA.
Their biggest prize ever was LaMelo Ball, who played for one year and instantly brought new recognition worldwide.
Their goal now is to sustain the success they’ve had recently instead of fading away. There’s still some work to do, but they’re trending in the right direction.
- Countries: All European Countries
EuroCup is for all the teams that just came up short to make the EuroLeague. There’s still some great competition here, but it usually is not going to include the best of the best unless a team underperformed the year before.
It’s hard for the average domestic league to compete with the EuroCup, since there is still a solid list of teams that can beat the best teams on any given night. They are all looking to compete enough and get into the EuroLeague as well, keeping the games very competitive.
5. Basketball Super League
- Country: Turkey
A lot of teams have poured money into the Basketball Super League to make it one of the very best in the world. Teams in the big cities tend to be the best, as they can recruit worldwide to bring in top players.
An influx of Turkish-born NBA players will only help make this league more popular locally. Getting a good mix of homegrown talent with some imports will keep this league competitive.
4. NBA G-League (the United States and Canada)
- Countries: United States & Canada
Having the opportunity to be one step away from the NBA is something a lot of players love about the NBA G-League. The pay isn’t great and the travel can be tough, but it takes one injury to open up an opportunity to move out.
Players who feel like they have NBA potential will pass on more lucrative opportunities in Europe to play in the NBA G-League. They might give it a try for a year or two to see if they can fulfill their dream. It’s much harder for a team to pull a player from Europe in the middle of the season.
3. Liga ACB (Spain)
- Country: Spain
Spain’s top league has held the title as the best domestic league in the world other than the NBA for more than a decade now.
Just like in soccer, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid make this very top-heavy. There is some talent scattered around the rest of the league, but they lack the depth to win consistently most of the time.
Players like Paul Gasol, Kristaps Porziņģis, Luka Doncic, and more have all come through Liga ACB. The top teams often play exhibitions against the NBA early in the season and hold their own.
- Countries: All European Countries
People familiar with the Champions League in soccer will understand the concept of the EuroLeague. This is where the top European clubs each year go through qualifying to participate.
There are EuroLeague games during the week, while teams will play in their home countries on the weekends. A total of 16 teams make it each year, and it usually pushes some of the best prospects in Europe.
1. NBA (the United States and Canada)
- Countries: United States & Canada
No one should be surprised at all to see the National Basketball Association at the top of his list. The best players are all trying to get here, with very few exceptions.
They have the most money to offer players, the best marketing, and the best competition. NBA scouts go all over the world to find the best of the best.
There’s always talk about expansion beyond the United States and Canada, but that’s still years away. They are so far ahead of every other basketball league in the world that it would take a colossal collapse for any league to take them out of the top spot.