Play­ing with a pro

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID DOW / NBA VIA GETTY IM­AGES

New Or­leans Pel­i­cans for­ward An­thony Davis vis­its stu­dents at the Huangzhuang Mi­grant School in Beijing on Tues­day. As part of NBA Global Games China 2016, Pel­i­cans play­ers and coaches par­tic­i­pated in the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony of an NBA Cares Learn and Play Cen­ter at the school, fea­tur­ing a newly re­fur­bished out­door bas­ket­ball court and run­ning track, and a new stu­dent read­ing and learn­ing cen­ter. Since 2004, the NBA has hosted more than 130 com­mu­nity out­reach events fea­tur­ing NBA play­ers and built 56 places where stu­dents can learn and play across China.

Watching the NBA bring its 10th edi­tion of pre­sea­son games to China from court­side, league Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver couldn’t hold back emo­tions wit­ness­ing the game blos­som in its big­gest over­seas mar­ket.

“See­ing Yao Ming sit on the court­side now and block­ing the views of many peo­ple be­hind him is in­ter­est­ing. It just al­lowed me to sit back and to think that now I am go­ing into my 25th year work­ing in the league.

“It all gives me some per­spec­tive in my life,” Sil­ver told China Daily on Tues­day in Beijing dur­ing the 2016 NBA Global Games China tour.

Even with Yao, once the NBA’s big­gest al­lure to Chi­nese fans, sit­ting out as a re­tired leg­end for years, the pop­u­lar­ity of the NBA in China has grown ma­ture to stand on its own, proven by en­thu­si­as­tic fan fol­low­ing, in­creased me­dia ex­po­sure and grow­ing spon­sor­ship in­ter­ests that come along the two-game pre­sea­son trip.

As Sil­ver re­calls his man­age­rial ca­reer with the NBA, the league’s ever-in­creas­ing im­pact en­hanced by au­then­tic NBA en­ter­tain­ment of­fered at the door steps of Chi­nese con­sumers high­lights his re­sume.

“Bring­ing games to China has been ef­fec­tive when you look at the growth of our busi­ness and the im­pact of us here since 2004,” said Sil­ver who took over the league from longserv­ing for­mer com­mis­sioner David Stern in early 2014.

“Many peo­ple pre­dicted when Yao re­tired in 2011 that the NBA would be in de­cline but in fact we have con­tin­ued to grow.”

Af­ter Stern launched NBA’s first game in China be­tween the Hous­ton Rock­ets and Sacra­mento Kings in 2004, Sil­ver has moved on to bring more fan-en­gag­ing ini­tia­tives be­sides the games while in­creas­ing the league’s ex­po­sure on all me­dia plat­forms to not only main­tain but also pro­pel the game’s ap­peal to China.

Un­der his helm, the league signed a five-year part­ner­ship ex­ten­sion with China’s lead­ing in­ter­net ser­vice provider Ten­cent in early 2015 and re­cently ex­panded its co­op­er­a­tion with BesTV, a mem­ber of the Shang­hai Ori­en­tal Pearl Group, in de­liv­er­ing con­tents in­clud­ing 1,300 games per year on mul­ti­me­dia plat­forms.

Ac­cord­ing to NBA China, more than 760 mil­lion fans watched the NBA in China dur­ing the 2015-16 sea­son, a more-than-10-per­cent rise from the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

On so­cial me­dia, the NBA has emerged as the most-fol­lowed sports league in China with more than 113 mil­lion fol­low­ers across league and team ac­counts on all ma­jor plat­forms while 119 play­ers have reg­is­tered per­sonal ac­counts on, mi­cro-blog­ging por­tal, Sina Weibo.

Sales of NBA Stores on ma­jor e-com­merce plat­forms such as Tmall.com and JD.com were up 227 per­cent dur­ing the 2015-16 sea­son com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.

Many peo­ple pre­dicted when Yao re­tired ... that the NBA would be in de­cline but ... we have con­tin­ued to grow.” Adam Sil­ver, NBA com­mis­sioner

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