大发2分彩官方官方NBA Chinese New Year events highlight U.S

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By Xinhua writers Zhou Xiaozheng, Yang Shilong

CLEVELAND, the United States, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Cleveland Cavaliers took on the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday evening on their home court in downtown Cleveland, Ohio amid cheers and applause from about 20,000 fans, who were also treated to some extra fun from a host of activities celebrating the arrival of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

This specially-themed night, hosted by the Cavs for the third consecutive year since 2016, is part of the NBA's league-wide Chinese New Year celebrations, which were first introduced seven years ago and are running from Feb. 2 to March 3 this season.

The month-long extravaganza will see a record number of 12 NBA teams, including the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks, usher in the Year of the Dog with special games or events at their home arenas.

From the perspective of viewership and brand promotion, the NBA's salute to the Chinese New Year is a perfect way to endear itself to hundreds of millions of Chinese fans, which will in turn give the league an edge in tapping the potential of the burgeoning Chinese sports market.

The NBA is now the most-followed international sports league in China online, seven times more discussed and with five times more followers than the top three European soccer leagues combined, according to a report by digital sports marketing company Mailman.

The 2017 NBA Finals attracted nearly 80 million viewers from China on mobile devices alone. The NBA's account on Chinese social media platform Weibo has over 33 million followers, six million more than its Twitter account.

NBA China, which was launched by the league ten years ago, is now worth more than 4 billion U.S. dollars, or 133 million U.S. dollars in value for each team, according to NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum.

China's sports market has seen an explosion in growth due in large part to a massive consumption from a rising middle class population. In 2015, the NBA signed a 700-million-dollar, 5-year deal with Chinese Internet and tech giant Tencent for the latter to carry NBA games and other content on its digital platforms.

The NBA might also be eyeing the staggering potential of sports merchandise sales in the world's second largest economy today. Euromonitor International projects that China's sporting and recreational services industry will more than double over 2016-2025. According to the latest data available, by 2025, China is set to become the third largest sporting and recreational services industry globally, overtaking Germany and Japan.

In a broader sense, the ever-growing strong connections between the NBA and its Chinese fans are also a microcosm of the increasingly closer U.S.-China people-to-people exchanges and business ties.

After all, it was sports that helped open a new era for the China-U.S. relations. The exchange of Pingpong players between the two countries in the early 1970s marked the beginning of a thaw in bilateral ties.

Now, the growing popularity of basketball among the two peoples can serve as an important vehicle for facilitating a closer and warmer relationship between the two countries.

The NBA is reportedly working with Chinese partners including the Chinese Basketball Association to grow the game in China at all levels. It has opened three NBA academies there, and is also planning to establish an NBA basketball school next year.

The league has also worked with Chinese partners to create a curriculum that incorporates fitness and basketball development, an initiative expected to reach 2,000 schools across 15 Chinese provinces and municipalities in the 2017-2018 school year.

Such cooperation is a win-win, as the Asian economic powerhouse is also carrying out a wide range of reforms to support its sports industry.

Within the framework of the national fitness plan, the Chinese government plans to use sports to advance all aspects of society.

In its efforts to launch and promote more China-themed events such as the Chinese New Year celebrations, the NBA also received strong support from businesses and community organizations of both countries.

This was clearly reflected in the sponsors' list of the Tuesday evening Cavs special game, which included China's Tencent and telecom giant ZTE, as well as Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Levelwear US and the Ohio Council of Community Schools.

With an increasing number of Chinese businesses coming to the United States to invest and operate in recent years, Chinese sponsorship of leading American sports leagues is also climbing rapidly. ZTE alone has been the sponsor of four NBA teams.

This creates another win-win situation, where the Chinese businesses build brand names and gain customer recognition, and American professional sports and community activities get fresh sources of funding and greater diversity in the audiences that they can reach.

An ancient Chinese saying goes: Friendship that derives from close contact between the peoples holds the key to sound state-to-state relationships. The future of the China-U.S. relationship lies not only in the hands of officials and diplomats in Beijing and Washington, but also those who share a common love of basketball and work together to build a bridge of cooperation and exchange out of it.