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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."