The NBA “quietly” returns to Chinese state television after three years

The NBA has “quietly” returned to state television in China for this year’s playoffs after not being broadcast there for about three years.

That’s according to a new ESPN story by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, who also report that NBA owners collectively have over $10 billion in assets in China — in addition to the $5 billion in NBA- shops in the country.

The NBA declined to make Commissioner Adam Silver or Assistant Commissioner Mark Tatum available to ESPN for comment, but sent a statement from league PR.

“We continue to believe that exporting media rights to NBA games to fans in more than 200 countries and territories around the world, including China, is consistent with our mission to inspire and connect people everywhere through the power of basketball ‘ NBA spokesman Mike Bass told the outlet in a statement.

The NBA has "calm" returned to state television in China after a three-year absence.
The NBA has “quietly” returned to state television in China after a three-year absence.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The NBA has disappeared from China’s state television network since October 2019, when then-Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted, “Fight for Freedom. Stand by Hong Kong’s side.”

The tweet ultimately cost the NBA potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

ESPN’s story this week identified several owners with significant financial risks in China.

Nets owner Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Chinese firm Alibaba, has tied 53.5 percent of his wealth to China. Other owners named with big deals in China included Heat’s Micky Arison, Grizzlies’ Robert Pera, Sixers’ Josh Harris and Rockets’ Tilman Fertitta.

Michael Jordan, who owns the Hornets, also has a tremendous brand in China through his affiliation with Nike’s Jordan Brand.

The story explores the dichotomy between the social justice message of the NBA league itself, and its owners and players about issues in America, while refusing to risk losing major corporations in China by speaking out against human rights atrocities taking place there. There will be another complicated dynamic if China ultimately invades Taiwan, as Russia did in Ukraine, since Arison’s Carnival Cruise Business is a joint venture with China State Shipbuilding Corp. reportedly linked to the Chinese military.

“No one really wants their name associated with China, but what can they do?” Attorney Dan Harris, who represents a number of companies doing business in China, told ESPN. “They’re kind of in between and in between. If they say what Americans want, in China it’s death. If they say what China wants, it’s death in America.” The NBA “quietly” returns to Chinese state television after three years


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