Indiana and “basketball culture”

26 Jun

In sociology, we talk a lot about “culture”.  We often give a definition something like: “the norms, values, artifacts, actions, and beliefs of a given group or society”.  We might then get into material (tangible artifacts) and non-material culture (ideas, values, norms).

Sometimes we like to talk about how material culture can influence non-material culture and vice versa (often a mutual and simultaneous influence).  I recently saw an article that helped show this influence via basketball players’ locales (this can be helpful to put a specific example to the somewhat nebulous concept of “culture”).


In Indiana there is a basketball culture that exists.  We love our basketball, and we’re not afraid to show it.  We have the movie Hoosiers, we pack (historic) high school gyms to cheer on our teams, and we have the Indiana Hoosiers (dare I add the Butler Bulldogs here).  We can drive through rural Indiana and find basketball hoops attached to barns (<– really cool pictures, check them out!).  We find all kinds of games going on in big cities.  We grow up hearing stories about Larry Bird being let into the French Lick gym at 5am to shoot hundreds of free throws and talking about Bob Knight hanging banners at Assembly Hall.

One interesting thing to look at is whether simply having this love affair with basketball basketball culture actually translates into anything.  One thing that I love to point out is that Indiana is home to 12 out of the top 15 biggest high school gymnasiums (that’s me at #1).

Hmmm.  Non-material culture (love/passion of basketball) affecting material culture (huge gyms built).

But this article that I saw recently and am referring to looks at NBA players produced by state.  An interesting project.  Does that same “culture of basketball” that Indiana has (placing high emphasis on basketball), translate to actually producing players that end up in the NBA?

This article is chock full of infographics outlining the home states of all players to have played in the NBA.  I’ll show just two here (but I recommend looking through them all, they’re cool!).


A quick skim and maybe you’re surprised, maybe not.  Some of the bigger states have produced more players.  Ok, seems about right.  But my eyes immediately went to Indiana (what can I say!) and gladly confirmed what I generally understood to be true.  We produce a fairly highly skewed number of players for a state that isn’t all that big (in population).

This map shows it more clearly:

state per capita

That’s right, when broken down per capita, Indiana ranks as the top producing state for NBA talent.  Maybe that basketball culture that we have and often like to talk/brag about actually does translate into NBA players being produced.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect analysis, and culture probably doesn’t explain all of Indiana’s success (and we would want to operationalize “basketball culture” a bit more precisely than I have done here), but I think that the overall point valid.  Indiana puts a lot of emphasis and value on basketball; we have created a basketball culture and tradition.  In turn, we produce a great deal of NBA basketball players; in fact, the most of any state per capita.

Kudos, Indiana!  Keep the tradition alive.

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in sociology, Sports, Uncategorized


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