Basketball without borders: China hits the court at NBA All-Star weekend

China 24

The just completed NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles was a three-day event celebrating the game of basketball. The sport that has global appeal, especially in China where the NBA is incredibly popular. 

CGTN’s May Lee reports.

It’s the biggest event in basketball, second only to the championship finals. Lots of celebrities turned out, including Chinese superstar Kris Wu, who played in the celebrity All-Star game for the third year in a row.

But the event is really about the best players in the NBA. The first glimpse of super stars over the weekend came at practice sessions of both Team LeBron and Team Stephan. It was a chance for fans to get a more intimate look at their favorite players.

It’s non-stop action on NBA All-Star weekend, but there’s something else that takes place that involves kids from around the world, who are huge basketball fans and want to learn a lot more about the game.

The Basketball Without Borders Global Camp is where high school students from around the world are trained and coached by NBA and WNBA players and coaches.

This year 67 students from 36 countries, including China, participated. Students like Michael Ou, who’s taking what he learned here to pursue his dream of playing for the NBA.

“(The camp) helps me in the future. When I go to college, it will help me. Help me play stronger,” Ou said.

“This camp has become a real centerpiece for talent around the world,” said Troy Justice, NBA Senior Director of International Development Operations. “NBA and WNBA scouts love being here. They don’t have to travel, they can be here in one place and see them all play.”

And as interest in the NBA grows in China, the hope is there will be more engagement on all levels.

NBA China CEO David Shoemaker has witnessed incredible growth since he took the post in 2011.

“The Yao Ming era was coming to an end,” Shoemaker said. “There were a lot of naysayers that said that will spell the decline of the popularity of the NBA in China and it’s funny, it’s been a rocket ship ever since that point.”

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2018

Kris Wu shoots the ball during the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by Ruffles as a part of 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center on February 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Copyright 2018 NBAE Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP)

Just last year, 750 million people in China watched at least one NBA game. More than 120 million people follow the NBA on social media.

Those staggering numbers are more than enough to motivate the NBA to give the game more exposure worldwide with high-profile events like All-Star weekend. It’s the energy and excitement of the NBA that generates the explosive interest at the All-Star game.

A game played by the greatest professional basketball players on the planet is the ultimate way to grow that global fan base. The All-Star game was close from start to finish, but in the final seconds… Team LeBron ruled supreme.