NBA thriving in China now

Updated: 2012-09-12 01:39

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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After rocky start, Shoemaker happy with progress, initiatives

David Shoemaker's appointment as CEO of NBA China began amid tough times.

One month after he started the job, in July 2011, the NBA went into a lockout after a dispute between the league and its players over salaries could not be resolved. Later that month, Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming announced his retirement, raising concerns about the league's growth in China.

Shoemaker can breathe easier now that those difficulties have been overcome.

According to Shoemaker, the league's television ratings on CCTV 5 were up almost 20 percent during the abbreviated 2011-12 regular season, and the playoffs boasted a similar increase.

The NBA's social media followers on Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo amounted to about 52 million.

The Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat was watched by 5.3 million fans in China on, which set a world record for live online viewership for a live event.

The NBA also launched its inaugural Chinese New Year celebration in January, presenting NBA basketball over an eight-day period on CCTV, and reached 96 million viewers through the league's television and digital platforms in China.

The upcoming NBA China Games 2012 between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers in Beijing and Shanghai, which will mark the first time a defending NBA championship team has participated in the event and will include three-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James, are expected to raise the league's profile here even higher.

"I've been in this role for about 16 months. I'm very pleased with the NBA China business and the investors are very pleased with the NBA China business. And I think, very importantly, our fans are responding to NBA basketball in ways they haven't done before … we have just come off one of the most popular seasons on record," Shoemaker said after an NBA fan event held in Beijing on Monday.

"I tend to listen to the fans, and I think they are saying that the game is popular and we are doing well."

As the local basketball league is enjoying surging popularity, enhancing cooperation with the Chinese Basketball Association to help develop the sport is now a priority for NBA China.

"The CBA had a wonderful season last year and I was really pleased to see it. Our relationship with the CBA has never been better and I think that's because we are both focused on doing the right things to grow the game of basketball," Shoemaker said.

"We have therefore focused very hard on working closely with the CBA on coaches programs. We have already trained over 300 coaches with NBA personnel. We've conducted referee exchanges with the CBA, so we are trying to share knowledge between the NBA and CBA.

"We have made efforts to help develop youth leagues and young basketball talent. The major focus has been the creation of the Dongguan Basketball School — that is a major investment for us. We announced a broad comprehensive partnership with Yao in July, where we are going to continue our hard work on developing basketball talent in China and furthering our efforts to give back to Chinese society through social responsibility and charity.

"From my perspective, as long as fans are watching basketball, whether it's CBA or NBA, that will automatically be good for the NBA. I commend the season they had last year and I really hope the momentum continues, because it will be good for them, be good for us, be good for the fans and be good for basketball in China."

Former NBA China CEO Tim Chen announced plans to build 1,000 retail chain stores in China in 2008. That plan has been altered and now will feature cooperation with Chinese websites to set up online stores under the leadership of Shoemaker.

Meanwhile, NBA apparel is available at 2,200 adidas stores in China.

The NBA had its first venture in e-commerce on almost a year ago and is in the final stages of setting up a store on this month or October. The NBA is also in talks with

"Adidas also plans to open more and more stores across China, and we feature prominently in them with our authentic on-court apparel. That is a unique feature of China. There is no such thing in adidas stores in the United States, where we are compelled to open our own stores," Shoemaker said.

"I want to round out our merchandising strategy, therefore we are focusing a lot on e-commerce right now."

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