News / Arts & Entertainment

    Even With its Popularity, NBA Has Room for Growth in China

    FILE - Lamar Odom of NBA basketball team Los Angeles Clippers shows a group of children how to pass the ball during a coaching clinic at the Huangzhuang School in Beijing, China, Oct. 10, 2012.
    FILE - Lamar Odom of NBA basketball team Los Angeles Clippers shows a group of children how to pass the ball during a coaching clinic at the Huangzhuang School in Beijing, China, Oct. 10, 2012.
    Reuters
    The National Basketball Association (NBA) is opening a glitzy "lifestyle destination'' complex with an official basketball court, a hoop-themed restaurant and a children's zone.

    You can train like Kobe Bryant, or even a Laker girl, at a state-of-the-art fitness center.

    Perhaps you could spend the day at an interactive carnival, either shooting jump shots against a virtual LeBron James or participate in a two-on-two competition with friends or fellow visitors.

    The NBA experience in the $1.5 billion, 2,300-acre sports and entertainment  superstructure is not in Beverly Hills or the shadow of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

    It is on the outskirts of Beijing.

    "China is our number one market outside of the United States," Heidi Ueberroth, president of NBA International, told Reuters,"The growth has been very significant and very much on track, and we are very much still just scratching the surface.''

    Many people in the United States believe basketball entered China's public consciousness when Yao Ming joined the NBA. Though he had a enormous impact, the game had a huge following well before the 7-foot-6 (2.29-meter) center became a member of the Houston Rockets in 2002.

    The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers played two pre-season games in China in 2012 and the knowledge of NBA history by the fans stunned league officials.

    "Bill Russell came to our pre-season games in October,'' NBA China CEO David Shoemaker said in an interview, "And in both Beijing and Shanghai ... we're talking about a young generation of fans here ... we introduced Bill Russell to them without any real description of what he did.

    ''Standing ovation in both arenas. It was amazing," he said.

    Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin comes under the basket against Los Angeles Lakers center Jordan Hill (27) during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, California, Nov. 18, 2012.Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin comes under the basket against Los Angeles Lakers center Jordan Hill (27) during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, California, Nov. 18, 2012.
    x
    Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin comes under the basket against Los Angeles Lakers center Jordan Hill (27) during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, California, Nov. 18, 2012.
    Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin comes under the basket against Los Angeles Lakers center Jordan Hill (27) during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, California, Nov. 18, 2012.
    Although Rockets guard Jeremy Lin, a Harvard-educated Chinese-American, currently carries the Sino banner in the NBA, 300 million play the game in the basketball-mad nation.

    Commissioner David Stern said the NBA water-cooler talk in China is similar to anyplace in America.

    'The discussions are all the same - about last night's games, about possible trades, about the [salary] cap, about revenue sharing," he said. ''It's really quite extraordinary."

    Training center

    The league has capitalized on its popularity by establishing the Chinese Basketball Association Dongguan Basketball School and NBA Training Center for potential pros.

    "We have recruited elite juniors age 12 to 17 and they train in an NBA facility to become top-level basketball players," said Shoemaker. ''It's a collaboration with the CBA. We use our most modern techniques from a coaching level, from a nutrition level and from a physical training level.

    "It's one of many ways we can partner with the local federation on the ground in China to further generate the next generation of basketball there.''
          
    Yao was the catalyst for the NBA's soaring popularity in China but the now-retired eight-time All-Star plays down his influence in the game's popularity.

    "Basketball had a big influence in China, even before the NBA got there,'' Yao, who retired from the NBA's Rockets in 2011 because of a foot injury, told Reuters."There was a foundation.

    ''Fans in China knew the stars of the league long before I played," he said. "And you know, I wasn't the first Chinese player in the NBA. I was the third."

    New arenas

    The league is helping to develop the fourth cutting-edge NBA-style arena in China, in Xiamen, on the southeast coast.

    Sina, the online media company, streams one live game per day and the average number of viewers during the first six weeks of the current season were 1.16 million, up 172 percent from the same period in the 2010-11 season.

    ''We are growing very fast internationally," said Ueberroth, noting that last week's All-Star game was televised in 215 countries in 47 different languages. ''It's a big priority in our business. It's very profitable, particularly in a place like China. We've got over 20 marketing partners there.  The official beer of the NBA, official soft drink of the NBA and yes, even the official milk."

    Ueberroth hopes to bring the NBA's blueprint for success to other countries like India, Brazil and the Philippines. Africa, she said, is fertile ground.

    But the still burgeoning success of the league in China may be hard to duplicate. NBA apparel and footwear is sold in more than 2,200 Adidas stores in the country of at least 1.3 billion people.

    "Our fans base there is so knowledgeable and it just impresses every person that's part of the NBA family that goes over,'' Ueberroth said. "It's the history of basketball in China.  It was brought by missionaries in the late 1800s, it's been part of the fabric and played throughout China. China had a team in the 1936 Olympics.

    "It has a very strong history in their culture," she added.

    You May Like

    US, Allies Discuss Next Steps in Islamic State Fight

    Meeting comes a day after US Navy SEAL was killed while fighting Islamic State forces in northern Iraq

    In China, Traditional Banks Fight Challenge From Internet Firms

    Internet companies lent more than $150 billion to customers in 2015, which is an extremely small amount compared to the much larger lending by commercial banks last year

    Trump Faces Tough Presidential Odds Against Clinton

    According to analysts, early indications are that Republican front-runner faces daunting contest against likely Democratic candidate, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Border Crossings: Bannersi
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 04, 2016 1:07 PM
    Singer and Songwriter, Michael Nelson better known as "Banners" sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London in Studio 4 to talk and perform songs from his debut self titled EP.

    Singer and Songwriter, Michael Nelson better known as "Banners" sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London in Studio 4 to talk and perform songs from his debut self titled EP.