Even with its popularity, NBA has room for growth in China

Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:31pm EST
 

By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - The National Basketball Association (NBA) is opening a glitzy "lifestyle destination" complex with an official basketball court, a hoop-themed restaurant and a children's zone.

You can train like Kobe Bryant, or even a Laker girl, at a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Perhaps you could spend the day at an interactive carnival, either shooting jump shots against a virtual LeBron James or participate in a two-on-two competition with friends or fellow visitors.

The NBA experience in the $1.5 billion, 2,300-acre sports and entertainment superstructure is not in Beverly Hills or the shadow of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

It is on the outskirts of Beijing.

"China is our number one market outside of the United States," Heidi Ueberroth, president of NBA International, told Reuters. "The growth has been very significant and very much on track, and we are very much still just scratching the surface."

Many people in the United States believe basketball entered China's public consciousness when Yao Ming joined the NBA. Though he had a enormous impact, the game had a huge following well before the 7-foot-6 (2.29 meter) center became a member of the Houston Rockets in 2002.

The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers played two preseason games in China in 2012 and the knowledge of NBA history by the fans stunned league officials.   Continued...

 
NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant of the U.S. poses with an electric guitar during a charity basketball game in Shanghai August 18, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria