Beyond Yao and Yi

Updated: 2013-04-19 08:44

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Reaching out to fans

Amid the boom in the use of social media, NBA has opened new doors to reach out to Chinese fans.

Silver says 60 current NBA players have opened micro blog accounts in China, the latest being superstar Kobe Bryant. After Bryant joined Sina Weibo, China's largest micro blog platform, on Feb 14, the number of his followers had skyrocketed to more than 1,152,000 as of April 18.

"More will come, and that's for sure," says Zhan Sheng, a Sina executive in its micro blog sports division. "Kobe wasn't the first and won't be the last. They consider it a shortcut to reach the fans while expanding their impact."

NBA's official accounts on Sina and Tencent have drawn more than 53 million followers.

"NBA's presence in social media is remarkable. It's unparalleled anywhere else in the world. We will provide more behind-the-scene content to Chinese fans on social media," Silver says.

NBA also works closely with charitable programs in the country. The cooperation began in 2007 when the NBA sent a glittering roster that included the Los Angeles Lakers' guard Steve Nash and New York Knicks' forward Carmelo Anthony to play in a charity game hosted by the Yao Foundation to raise donations and build schools in the nation's rural areas.

NBA's support for the foundation continued in August last year. NBA Cares, the league's global social responsibility program, invited Los Angeles Clippers' forward Caron Butler to visit local schools and host clinics for 160 students in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, and also joined the Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season in Leshan, Sichuan. NBA Cares will be supporting this year's basketball season activities as a partner once again.

Butler says he was inspired by his visit to Sichuan.

"It tells me how much of a joy it is for (the children) to be here. I felt the same way - the feeling was mutual," he says. "The thing that I always want to encourage the kids is to do the three Ds: determination, dedication and discipline. That's my foundation that got me through a lot of adversity in life."

Silver says Yao's charitable spirit fueled the league's partnership with the foundation.

"One of the things Yao speaks so passionately about is that basketball is not only about winning. We can teach values of sportsmanship and teamwork to boys and girls. He will continue to be the global icon of the sport," Silver says.

Since the devastating earthquake that rocked Sichuan province in 2008, the NBA has donated more than $5 million to rebuilding earthquake-ravaged regions. NBA Cares has committed to refurbishing 14 basketball courts, building two Project Hope schools, and implementing physical education training programs across 47 Project Hope schools around the province.

Project Hope is a Chinese community service project to build schools in poverty-stricken rural areas of China.

NBA Cares has also built 42 sites where children and families can live, learn or play in eight different cities throughout the country and supported community outreach initiatives ranging from education to health and wellness.

"Social responsibility is the core of the NBA. It (is of the utmost) concern to our commissioner David Stern, to the 30 teams and every player," Shoemaker says.

As part of their preseason visit last year, the Clippers, in partnership with the China Youth Development Foundation, dedicated an NBA Cares education center that includes 20 computers, new classroom furniture and a book donation service for students at the Huangzhuang Migrant School in Beijing.