NBA China CEO sees the sport proliferate

Updated: 2015-02-19 12:21

By Jack Freifelder in New York(China Daily USA)

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NBA China CEO sees the sport proliferate

David Shoemaker, NBA China CEO

The goal of increasing the NBA's international presence has been at the forefront of the league's efforts in recent years, according to NBA China CEO David Shoemaker.

Shoemaker, the man tasked with leading the National Basketball Association's efforts in its largest market outside of the United States, said the league's prime goal is to simply "develop and grow the game of basketball".

"China is an extremely important area for Commissioner Adam Silver, and he made that very clear when he took over," Shoemaker said. "He has a clear vision about what we wants to do in China.

"So much of what we do at NBA China is about importing the game and showing it on television or digital media," he said. "A few years ago, we decided that what we wanted to do was export Chinese New Year back into the United States."

Shoemaker told China Daily in a Feb 14 roundtable with Chinese media that the NBA's outreach efforts in China have had immeasurable benefits for the league's relationship with its growing international fan base.

"Our game is as popular as ever in China," Shoemaker said. "According to the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), over 300 million people are playing the game of basketball. There are 215 countries that are being reached, and that's an amazing testament to just how global the game of basketball has become."

NBA China, headquartered in Beijing, was formed in January 2008 to lead the league's business in China. The NBA in China has relationships with a number of television and digital media partners, including one of more than 28 years with China Central Television (CCTV).

NBA China has more than 93 million fans and followers on its social media platforms, NBA data showed. The NBA itself has more than 750 million followers.

"As a concept, we want to do everything that we can do to make the great game of NBA basketball as available to our fans as widely and conveniently as possible," Shoemaker said.

On Jan 29, the NBA and Tencent Holdings Ltd announced a five-year expansion of their partnership.

The new deal will make Tencent the exclusive digital partner of NBA China, which means the Internet giant will be responsible for streaming live NBA games and delivering NBA content, including highlights and NBA original programming, to computers and mobile devices throughout China. The partnership will begin on July 1.

Basketball has established a major international presence with NBA games broadcast in 215 countries and territories and in 47 languages. The NBA has staged nearly 150 preseason and regular-season games in close to 20 countries and territories since the NBA's first-ever international game in 1978.

The league has staged 18 total games in China, with the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings playing in the latest pair of games in October 2014.

This year's Chinese New Year festivities are just beginning, and the celebration is set to run from Feb 19 to March 4. Other important outreach projects in China are in the works too, like the NBA Yao Basketball Club and the league's partnership with China's Ministry of Education.

Shoemaker said one of the things he is most proud of during his tenure in China is NBA China's recent partnership with China's Ministry of Education to teach basketball as part of the curriculum in physical education classes around the country..

"The key to growing and developing the game and the interest in NBA basketball is to get young children bouncing balls as early as we can, and the best access point is at schools," Shoemaker said.

"Sports, particularly team sports, teach young children lessons of leadership, teamwork, how to deal with adversity, winning and losing, these are all very important life lessons that children can learn," Shoemaker said.

The NBA Yao Basketball Club, which provides basketball instruction for boys and girls ages 6-16, started in Beijing in February 2014.

Nonetheless, there are still some obstacles to the game's growth in China, Shoemaker said, including the pace of development in China, and the timing of games in the US and Canada.

"Things are happening so quickly in this market that just when we think we've created the perfect merchandising offering; something has changed," Shoemaker said. "Keeping up with the pace of development and innovation is something we need to constantly strive to do."

"When the teams come over, they engage with the communities in a way they just simply would not be able to do if they came over to play a regular-season game," Shoemaker said. "They take an active interest in the city they're in."

"These are not regular preseason games; the teams want to win, and the crowd is engaged, so there's something special to what we have, and I'm not in a rush to change that."