NBA commissioner Adam Silver says NBA Global Games China boasts two teams that truly demonstrate how global the league has become through their international owners.
The Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets, who squared off in Shanghai last Sunday, clashed again on Wednesday night in Beijing.
“There is a particular fascination I have with the Nets and the Kings in that the owner of the Nets is Russian and the owner of the Kings was born in Mumbai, India,” Silver said.
“I think these two teams demonstrate that not only the players are increasingly international but the owners are also global business people.”
When asked whether there will be a Chinese owner of an NBA team any time soon, Silver said: “One day, no doubt. It is inevitable.”
As the NBA’s first foreign owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has also ensured the Nets have a distinctive foreign flavor, with six of the team’s 17 players from countries outside of the US, including Russia, Croatia, Mexico, Jamaica and Bosnia.
Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive, the first NBA owner from India, has an Indian player on the squad.
Irina Pavlova, president of Onexim Sports and Entertainment that oversees the Nets, said she thinks the NBA is ready to welcome more international owners.
“The NBA has been very welcoming to us as the first internationally owned team. Absolutely, the NBA is ready for more international owners,” she said.
Besides building an international core of players, the Nets and Kings are keen to increase their fan bases around the globe and are paying special attention to China.
“Our fans back home in Brooklyn come from many different countries and speak many different languages, so it’s important for us to be able to travel and build the fan base around the world, especially in China,” said Pavlova.
“The Chinese fans are probably the most loyal and passionate in the world.”
Silver said the Chinese Basketball Association estimates more than 300 million people play basketball in China, which is nearly the number of the entire population of the US.
The growth of the NBA in China over the past decade has exceeded expectations, according to Silver.
“It’s remarkable over the past 10 years to see how knowledgeable the Chinese fans have become about the NBA, not just the superstars, every roster from player 1 to player 15,” said the commissioner.
“I think the biggest change over the past decade has been the explosion of interest on social media, which allows friends here in China to follow the NBA as if they live in the same city as the NBA team.”