The globalization of basketball received a major boost Tuesday, as it was announced the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans will play two preseason games in China next season.
Per NBA.com, the contests will mark the 10th edition of the Global Games series in China.
Following the announcement, Yutang Sports tweeted out this photo of NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum and NBA China CEO David Shoemaker:
Yutang Sports @SportsYutang
Happy to see NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum & NBA China CEO David Shoemaker at today's Media Round Table. https://t.co/484gRCs58Q2016-3-30 09:15:55
Per Verrier, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement expressing the excitement and importance of the China series:
We are thrilled to bring NBA teams once again to Beijing and Shanghai. NBA fans in China are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the game of basketball. The China Games deliver the live, authentic NBA experience to our Chinese fans and provide our teams and players an opportunity to learn more about the Chinese people and culture.
The NBA played exhibition games in China on several previous occasions with the most recent coming in 2015 when the Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets met twice.
The Yao Ming-led Rockets faced the Sacramento Kings in a pair of contests in 2004, and did the same against the New Jersey Nets in 2010, and October will mark their first games in China since then.
Yao's status as a former Rockets star has made the franchise an extremely popular one in China over the years, and superstar guard James Harden anticipates a welcoming environment come October, according to Verrier: "Our entire Houston Rockets team is looking forward to returning to China, to compete and play our best basketball for our loyal and passionate fans. We are proud of the special bond our team has with the Chinese fans, and we know the atmosphere at the games will be electrifying."
The NBA Global Games series has featured regular-season contests in both England and Mexico in recent years, and returning to China for the preseason could be the precursor to some regular-season tilts being played there in the future.
Silver has candidly discussed the possibility of the NBA expanding into Europe at some point, and while that doesn't seem imminent by any means, the Global Games China series is another example of the league's interest in fanning out beyond North America.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story mistakenly said the most recent NBA exhibition game in China was in 2004.
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