The NBA's first landing on Chinese hardwood was in 1979, when the Washington Bullets played exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. It was the start of an unexpected huge fanbase in the Middle Kingdom.
NBA Basketball is now deeply rooted in Chinese sports, both locally and globally.
The league is giving a nod to its Chinese fans with the announcement of its sixth annual Spring Festival celebration event, which will run from January 27 to February 12. Teams such as the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets will have their players wear special Spring Festival-themed jerseys and hold various activities throughout the Chinese holiday.
An NBA court from the Year of the Dragon in 2012.
Here's what the jerseys will look like...
Golden State Warriors:
A ceremony will also be held to honor the retirement of Yao's jersey (No. 11) by the Rockets at halftime during their February 3 game against the Chicago Bulls. Yao was drafted as the top overall pick by the Rockets back in 2002 and went on to win eight All-Star titles. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last year.
Moreover, the NBA has produced a hongbao-themed commercial with figures of Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Jeremy Lin to set the tone of the event. This will set a record of 60 game broadcasts across China's television networks.
The NBA has grown significantly in China over the past few decades, with plans of bringing more to the court. This includes more off-season games in the future and 400 games to be aired on mobile this season.
Along with a recently opened NBA Plazone in Shanghai, the league also announced the upcoming launch of NBA training academies in Hangzhou, Jinan, and Urumqi, collaborating with provincial sports bureaus with goals of developing the future generations of both male and female talent in China.