The National Basketball Association and National Collegiate Athletic Association are making a full-court press to improve the quality of youth basketball. In 2009, their double-team effort culminated in iHoops, which recently came under the leadership of newly appointed CEO, Derrick Godfrey. A former baller during high school and for Colgate University, Godfrey brings to the organization his valuable insight of navigating on and off the court.
“Coming from a household where parents were not college-educated, my assumption is that there are a lot of kids who come from similar households who are very invested in the game of basketball,” he says.
iHoops—in its role of observing trends and behavioral patterns in youth basketball—isn’t trying to regulate the sport at that stage. Instead, it connects the dots between that time period and when players go on to play for college and/or the NBA, providing guidance, information, and skills training to kids, their coaches, and even their parents through online and on-the-ground endeavors.
Nearly 45 million children between the ages of 7 and 17 are involved in sports, but basketball is the first major sport to have an entity like iHoops, which was conceived by NBA Commissioner David Stern and late NCAA President Myles Brand. It works to get both entities in front of the young fans who populate their leagues, each of which reported revenues of $4.3 billion and $777 million, respectively.
“Many NCAA student athletes played youth sports, so there is an obligation to help young basketball athletes develop at an early age and to educate them on the values of pursuing a college education,” says NCAA Chief Operating Officer Jim Isch. “Though we have 89 NCAA championship sports, men’s and women’s basketball tends to generate local, regional and national attention at a higher rate,” and no doubt greater interest from aspiring ballers.
“I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s paying attention that the shoe companies are very integral to the growth of basketball,” Godfrey adds, speaking of iHoops’ additional partners, Adidas and Nike Inc. “It’s a very reciprocal relationship. The shoe companies benefit by kids all over the planet wearing their product and the kids benefit by the shoe companies making advancements in technology of these very important components of the game—minimizing injury [and] making sure these kids are able to play the game at a high level.”
Marketing partners include Spalding and Connor Sport Court International, and Godfrey says that working with all of these stakeholders provides balance in their ongoing mission and its place within a lucrative industry. A recent forecast for consumer equipment purchases relating to basketball was $261 million. That number doesn’t even tally the $2.8 billion and $1.1 billion spent on basketball shoes and apparel, respectively, with the former’s average price-tag-per-purchase coming to $62.13 a pair—more than almost any kind of athletic shoe except golf and toning, hiking and hunting boots, and shoes made specifically for running and jogging.