NBA to participate in China International Consumer Products Expo, expected to help bilateral relations
Published: Apr 25, 2021 08:06 PM
Giannis Antetokounmpo of Team LeBron grabs a rebound against Team Durant during the 70th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: VCG

Giannis Antetokounmpo of Team LeBron grabs a rebound against Team Durant during the 70th NBA All-Star Game at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: VCG

The US National Basketball Association (NBA) is expected to participate in the maiden China International Consumer Products Expo, the expo organizers said on Saturday, since the "Morey incident" on Hong Kong-related issues has cooled the relationship between the NBA and one of its biggest markets, China. The collaboration is anticipated to pave the way for further restoration of the relationship between the US league and China, observers noted. 

The expo will run from May 7 to 10 in Haikou, South China's Hainan Province. The NBA earlier participated in the third China International Import Expo in November 2020 in Shanghai. 

The NBA's relationship with China cooled rapidly after "the Morey incident" when then-General Manager of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey tweeted support for violent rioters in Hong Kong in 2019. Live NBA games were pulled from Chinese state television CCTV, and many fans even began boycotting the league. However, recent signs point to an expected easing of relations.

Yao Ming, president of the Chinese Basketball Association and NBA hall-of-famer, said on Saturday that communication is the key to resolving misunderstandings and biases.

"I think communication is the only way," Yao said on Saturday in an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the ping-pong diplomacy that ultimately saw the Cold War-era rivalry thaw. 

Yao believed misunderstanding is simply natural as people live in different countries and regions. "But where it exists, it calls for us to have more platforms to communicate to break through misunderstandings."

Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, also expressed similar expectations of relations between the league and its millions of fans in China, calling for deeper understanding. 

"My personal feeling is when I look at the mission of the NBA, which is to improve people's lives through basketball, I think continuing to operate in China is completely consistent with our mission," Silver said in an interview with NBC earlier in April. 

"I think these cultural exchanges are critically important. I think it's an opportunity through sports, that it's a way of building commonality among people through sports," Silver noted. 

Observers told the Global Times that further cooperation between China and the US in this area is to be expected. 

Compared with the previous ice-breaker of ping-pong games, the current chapter of China-US sports diplomacy may "reheat cool water." However, it is not a unilateral effort, and the NBA should undertake a certain amount of lobbying within the US, observers said. 

CCTV, China's state broadcaster, has not yet brought the NBA games back on air as rumors has suggested this might happen. Sources told the Global Times that CCTV and the NBA have signed a broadcasting contract, but the schedule of official resumption of broadcasts has not been decided.