Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 23 No. 13
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Experiencing the NBA in China, from those who were there

I was honored to accompany the Kings to China for preseason games against the Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai and Beijing. And even though the Kings were narrowly defeated by the Nets in both games, the trip proved to be a cultural and bonding experience I know we’ll all remember the rest of our lives.

The games were part of the NBA’s Global Games and highlight the Kings’ continued commitment to owner Vivek Ranadivé’s NBA 3.0 philosophy: leveraging cutting-edge technology to enhance the fan experience, acting as a positive agent of change in the community, and expanding the team’s global brand. The games also marked the 10th anniversary of the inaugural NBA China Games in which the Kings took on Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets, games I also attended.

The Kings traveled to China with a larger-than-average crew that included more than 150 players, coaches, staff, dancers, mascot Slamson, members of the ownership group, Sacramento business leaders, Ranadivé and Kings part-owner Shaquille O’Neal.

Our flight to China was filled with excitement and pranks, and as soon as we landed in Shanghai, we hit the ground running.

The Kings dedicated a Learn and Play Center in Shanghai, and got schooled in the art of ping-pong.
First on the agenda was an Oct. 10 panel discussion with the American Chamber of Commerce to discuss the “Business of Basketball.” Kings President Chris Granger and general manager Pete D’Alessandro joined Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark and general manager Billy King for the discussion, moderated by Kenneth Jarrett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce.

Later in the evening, the team officially kicked off its visit to China at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai for Fan Appreciation Night. Thousands of fans showed up to meet Kings players, coaches and personnel, who happily signed autographs, took photos and mingled with the international fan base.

The next day, we were honored to participate in an NBA Cares event at the Ziluolan Migrant School. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Ranadivé, and Kings legends Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic dedicated a Learn and Play Center that featured a renovated basketball court and surrounding track, a new reading room, and a revitalized computer lab. Players, coaches and staff had a great time playing with the students. We hosted a basketball clinic, read to them, played educational computer games … and got stomped by the kids in a mean game of ping-pong.

The Kings visited the Great Wall of China on Oct. 13. One of the great Wonders of the World, the wall was breathtaking from all angles and vantage points. After some intense exploring and team photos, a few decided to take the toboggan slide back down to the buses. Ryan Hollins best captured the exhilaration, with Ranadivé coming in a close second.

After a little shopping at the Silk Market and Adidas flagship store in Beijing, the crew is now back in Sacramento getting ready to kick off the regular season.

The experiences we shared in China made the entire organization a stronger family, and we can’t wait for the 2014-15 season, which also happens to mark the 30th season for the Kings franchise in Sacramento.

Grant Napear is sports radio host at KHTK Sports 1140 and play-by-play announcer for the Sacramento Kings.