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NBA thriving in China now

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

10:05, September 13, 2012

After rocky start, Shoemaker happy with progress, initiatives

David Shoemaker's appointment as CEO of NBA China began amid tough times.

One month after he started the job, in July 2011, the NBA went into a lockout after a dispute between the league and its players over salaries could not be resolved. Later that month, Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming announced his retirement, raising concerns about the league's growth in China.

Shoemaker can breathe easier now that those difficulties have been overcome.

According to Shoemaker, the league's television ratings on CCTV 5 were up almost 20 percent during the abbreviated 2011-12 regular season, and the playoffs boasted a similar increase.

The NBA's social media followers on Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo amounted to about 52 million.

The Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat was watched by 5.3 million fans in China on Sina.com, which set a world record for live online viewership for a live event.

The NBA also launched its inaugural Chinese New Year celebration in January, presenting NBA basketball over an eight-day period on CCTV, and reached 96 million viewers through the league's television and digital platforms in China.

The upcoming NBA China Games 2012 between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers in Beijing and Shanghai, which will mark the first time a defending NBA championship team has participated in the event and will include three-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James, are expected to raise the league's profile here even higher.

"I've been in this role for about 16 months. I'm very pleased with the NBA China business and the investors are very pleased with the NBA China business. And I think, very importantly, our fans are responding to NBA basketball in ways they haven't done before … we have just come off one of the most popular seasons on record," Shoemaker said after an NBA fan event held in Beijing on Monday.

"I tend to listen to the fans, and I think they are saying that the game is popular and we are doing well."

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