NBA Growth in China

Jaime IrvineCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2009

I must say that I am glad to see the NBA development work that is going on in China.

David Stern is preparing basketball to survive this economic downturn and also to eventually become the world’s number-one sport by getting in early in China.

Last year, the NBA formed a joint venture with AEG to design, market, and operate US-style arenas in China, “including an 18,000-seat entertainment center in Shanghai that will open within a year.”

With the stimulus package in China paying for more local entertainment infrastructure, other Chinese cities are approaching the NBA with interest:

“The NBA opened its first two merchandise stores in Beijing last year, offering fans branded jerseys, basketballs, shoes and accessories. It plans to start 20 new shops in China this year and recently added one in Shanghai, Chen said. New stores will follow in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Changsha.”

Remember the name Tim Chen. Mr. Chen is NBA China’s CEO. He will be an important name to follow in the years to come.

“The interest is still very strong with the stimulus package, the interest did not go down,” Chen said in an interview in Beijing. “Our issue is how to get the joint venture to step up quickly to handle all these.”

Personally, from a very macroeconomic standpoint, I feel that China holds all of the cards. In a recession, those with cash in hand will weather the times the best. Capital becomes the all-important commodity.

China is the world's lender and buys a majority of the US debt. They hold all the cash at the country level, thus they hold the cards in terms of the future of the worldwide economy.

Interest in basketball continues to grow in China, so the move is natural. But by aligning themselves with the fastest growing economy, the NBA is positioning itself to be in charge of the worlds basketball programs, not just the United States’. If they can create the pro level interest, the amateur and youth levels will quickly fall into place.

It is this Chinese youth market that needs to cater to in the years to come. Long-term planning for this is already under way.