Playing with a pro
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