NBA 'first class' in China despite past conflicts, Yao Ming says
NEW YORK -- The NBA and China have encountered turbulence in their relations over the years, but retired great Yao Ming told Reuters the league is still "first class" in his home country.
Yao, the president of the Chinese Basketball Association, soared to stardom in the United States as an eight-time All-Star for the Houston Rockets before retiring in 2011.
The affable, 7-foot-6 Yao propelled the NBA's popularity in his home country, but relations between the league and China have not always been smooth.
Chinese broadcasters stopped airing Rockets games in 2019 after then-general manager Daryl Morey posted a message in support of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, and earlier this year, former NBA player Dwight Howard appeared in a promotional video in which he referred to Taiwan as a country, prompting backlash.
"I have to say, the NBA is in the first class ... [because], you know, the players being exposed in China for so long," Yao said, when asked about the past issues between China and the NBA. "The players, the teams [are] all still very well welcome in China."
Kyle Anderson competed with China at the FIBA World Cup, while Miami Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler embarked on a tour of the country over the summer.
Yao traveled to New York this week for the first time in nearly four years as part of a roughly 30-person Chinese delegation and met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver at a time when international participation in the league is at an all-time high.
"Everything looks [like it is] running very, very well [under] his management," Yao said of Silver.
The trip coincides with the Women's Tennis Association returning to China. The WTA concluded its China Open earlier this month after previously suspending competitions there over the disappearance of Peng Shuai.
Yao, a longtime friend of the former doubles No. 1, said he had met with Peng over dinner about two months ago and that she was doing well.
NBA “first class” in China despite past conflicts, Yao Ming says - ESPN. (n.d.). ESPN.com. https://www.espn.com.sg/nba/story/_/id/38740244/nba-first-class-china-conflicts-yao-ming-says