The Brooklyn Nets view connecting with the city's growing Chinese community as a good business move.
"When you think of Brooklyn, it's such a diverse market," said Brett Yormark, Nets CEO. "As a franchise, we aspire to be global, and connecting with China in general is something that is very important for management and ownership. It's also very important for the NBA.
"There are many Chinese Americans that call Brooklyn home, so they're a very big part of our community, and as such, a big part of what we do at the Barclays Center," Yormark said. "Given the fact that we've played in China four times in the last few years, our merchandise is a top-10 seller there.
"The United States and China are working very hard to build a major relationship built on cooperation," said Zhang Qiyue, the Chinese consul general in New York. "And basketball games, or any sport, bring our people closer together.
"Over the years, the NBA has really attracted players and fans from all over the world, proving that sport can actually transcend national, linguistic and cultural boundaries," Zhang said.
Yormark and Zhang spoke at a press conference on Sunday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Nets co-hosted "A Celebration of Chinese Culture".
The annual event is co-hosted by the Sino-American Friendship Association (SAFA).
For several years, the two organizations have been working together to introduce Chinese culture to the National Basketball Association.
Li Li, SAFA's executive vice-president, said the organization began its relationship with the Nets in 2008, when a Chinese player name Yi Jianlian was still with the team. The Nets played in New Jersey at the time.
"When Yi Jianlian was with the team, we started the conversation about how to support the team and get it to reach out more to the Chinese community," Li said. "This is the seventh year that we've done an annual celebration of Chinese culture.
"The great part about this event is the Nets have a mission," Li said. "They advocate for an American sports team being introduced to Chinese people in the US, but they also explore opportunities and partnerships with China globally as well.
"To have Chinese culture mixed into this tradition is definitely a good way to address the American fans," she said.
There were several Chinese touches interspersed throughout the game on Sunday, in which the Nets beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 107-99, starting with the singer of the national anthem and the player introductions.
Team merchandise with slogans in Mandarin was available, and the Nets dance team performed in traditional Chinese attire. There was a Lion Dance at halftime.
Also attending were Peter Zhang, president of SAFA; Zhang Meifang, deputy consul general in New York; and Martin Golden, a state senator from New York.
"As we all know, it was the Ping Pong Diplomacy that helped melt the thick ice between the US and China," said the consul general. "NBA superstars are actually household names in China, and basketball is now becoming the icing on the cake in the relationship between the two countries. Under this backdrop, this afternoon's celebration is all the more significant."
"Chinese Americans and China in general are very dear to our heart, and we look forward to fostering our relationship and growing it in the years to come," Yormark said.
Original title on China Daily: Brooklyn Nets celebrate Chinese culture