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US basketball team courts Chinese fans

By Mingmei Li in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-01 09:39

China's Consul General in New York Huang Ping (second from right), founder of Wah Yan Ching Nin Wang Peng (third from right) and CEO of Venturant Group Liao Yu (right) tip off the ball for the Brooklyn Nets' Chinese New Year game at Barclays Center on Feb 13. THE BROOKLYN NETS

Standing courtside at their beloved National Basketball Association team's arena — dribbling the ball, weaving through defenders, taking jump shots, sinking baskets and cheering — appears to be a dream for many young children watching the NBA in China.

The Brooklyn Nets are turning those dreams into reality by regularly inviting Chinese fans in New York to play basketball on the court of Barclays Center, the team's home arena, and by offering training sessions at the Nets' practice facility.

Liu Mengyang, head of China business and strategy at BSE Global, the parent company of the Brooklyn Nets, told China Daily that the company and his department are striving to strengthen connections between local Chinese and international fans with the Nets.

"NBA games are widely recognized and have a large fan base in the US," Liu said. "It's an integral part of American sports culture."

Such a rich basketball culture inspired Liu to pursue his master's degree in sports management at the University of Michigan. Beyond the games, the stories and spirit behind US professional sports have inspired countless Chinese fans like him.

Liu said he and his China-focused team at BSE Global are also using their strengths to expose local audiences to Chinese culture as well.

On Feb 13 the NBA team held its 12th annual Chinese New Year celebration at Barclays Center, celebrating the Year of the Dragon.

"We hope to see more progress and innovation to celebrate the Chinese New Year," Liu said. "We're very proud to say that game is a full takeover of the Chinese cultural elements."

Celebrating traditional festivals has gradually become a tradition for many NBA teams across the US as they embrace Asian American heritage and diversity. The trend has also drawn increasing attention from Chinese fans elsewhere.

The Nets are enhancing the authenticity of the experience by offering audiences a glimpse into both traditional and modern Chinese culture.

For the Spring Festival game, Nets players wore custom-made warmup shirts for the Year of the Dragon, introduced with Chinese announcements as they entered the court.

The black-and-white Nets jersey was accented that day by the red-themed arena, adorned with Chinese characters and dragon motifs, symbolizing auspiciousness and good fortune.

Diverse culture show

Audiences also received lucky "red envelope giveaways", and the Chinese hip-hop artist Wang Yitai performed during halftime, alongside traditional Chinese dance performances featuring ancient Dunhuang culture.

The Nets have also collaborated with the Chinese youth street fashion clothing brand Wah Yan Ching Nin. Venturant Group, the investment and operations group focusing on promoting innovative and authentic restaurant brands from China, brought Chinese traditional food to the venue with a temple fair.

"We really appreciate that we have this opportunity to bring Chinese culture into the NBA game and really have all the fans celebrate with us," Liu said.

Before the game the Nets' Ben Simmons, a three-time NBA All Star player with a large fan base in China, announced his intention to provide more donations to China. It followed his donation of a basketball court to Guizhou province last year.

The game attracted more than 17,000 people to the arena, with millions watching online.

"It was such a rewarding experience, and I'm looking forward to providing the fans with additional assistance this year," Simmons said at the game.

Liu said: "For most fans here at the game, what really hits home isn't just about how the players are performing or who wins in the end, but rather the unique characteristics of the game itself. Sports events also serve as a positive platform for showcasing the cultures of both sides."

As a sports journalist five years ago, Liu used that experience to narrate US sports stories from the locker room to the court for Chinese fans.

Now Liu is operating the China business strategy team with the Nets, connecting Chinese and US basketball fans with cultural activities and business collaboration.

"Through sports as a platform, I can actually feel what I can learn, or what I can understand, and experience different things. But in terms of interpersonal communication, sports are something everyone is interested in, something universal. I hope that through these games more people will be willing to understand Chinese culture and engage in exchange."

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