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Basketball in China Part II: The Evolution I

07-27-2012 13:56 BJT


by Li Zhenyu

Basketball is never out of place in modern China. As a matter of fact, the sport in the land of Confucius is almost as old as the sport itself.

After years of development, the Chinese version of the NBA was born. One of the players coming from this league was a Chinese giant by the name of Yao Ming.

With an estimated fan base of 450 million, China's basketball market has shown huge potential to become the biggest in the world.

Basketball Today

Basketball is currently one of the most popular sports in China, and has the biggest number of people involved with the game.

An estimated 300 million Chinese people play basketball — roughly equivalent to the entire population of the United States, according to the Chinese Basketball Association.

It is the most popular sport among Chinese youth.

Since 1987, when the National Basketball Association (NBA) first gave broadcasting rights to China Central Television (CCTV) free of charge, it has cultivated an estimated fan base of 450 million. Megastars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett are household names in the country.

With exposure to the NBA, more and more kids play with NBA-style cockiness and wear Adidas, Nike and Reebok shoes and clothes.

Beijing over the last 10 years has slowly opened basketball to outside influences, in much the same way it has opened other strategic industries to foreign investment. The government has gradually allowed corporations like Nike, Li Ning, and the NBA to play an increasingly greater role in developing the market and the basketball talent.

In January 2008, the NBA established the entity NBA China, an affiliate with local operations and management. Since then, NBA China has built its business aggressively through a broad media play, along with sponsorships, promotions, events and an arena-management venture.

China's basketball market has shown huge potential to become the biggest in the world.

A Historical Perspective

Long before the NBA arrived, missionaries and revolutionaries helped make the game ubiquitous here in China.

Introduced to China over a century ago by YMCA missionaries just a few years after the game's 1891 invention in Springfield, Massachusetts, basketball has seeped into the fabric of Chinese lives.

Some of the first groups that embraced basketball in China were college students and western-minded scholars.

In the 1920s, the game was very popular among urban students.

In 1935, basketball was declared a Chinese national pastime.

At that time, members of the Red Army was encouraged to play basketball for lifting spirits and exercise.

Until the NBA arrived in early 1990s, basketball had come to feel so intrinsically Chinese, most people did not even associate it with America.

Li Zhenyu authors the "Beyond Gold" column for People's Daily Online.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: People's Daily

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