Nets owner Joe Tsai says NBA's relationship with China 'in a very good place'

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Could the NBA and China once again be in a good-standing relationship? One NBA owner with high influence overseas seems to think so. 

Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, the co-founder and chairman of Chinese e-commerce Giant Alibaba, told CNBC that the league is “in a very good place” with China despite their rocky situation these past few years. 

Four years ago, Houston Rockets’ then-executive Daryl Morey tweeted that he stood with Hong Kong, supporting the anti-government protests that were taking place there. 


Joe Tsai, co-founder and executive vice chairman, Alibaba Group

Joe Tsai speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference on Oct. 18, 2021, in Beverly Hills, California. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Enraged by the support, China announced its “condemnation” of Morey’s tweet, while cutting ties with the Rockets. At the time, the Los Angeles Lakers were also set to play in Shanghai and Shenzhen. 

The 300 million NBA fans who reside in China were cut off from the NBA, which commissioner Adam Silver said cost the league around $400 million in 2021. 

But Tsai, whose team was the last to play in China in 2019, sees the relationship mending. 


“I think the NBA is in a very good place with respect to its relationship with China,” Tsai said, per Reuters. “China is actually the NBA’s biggest fan base. So what happened before, I think it’s water under the bridge.”

Tsai added the NBA would “love” to get back to China and Macau to play games for their vast international audience.  

Joe Tsai at the Staples Center

Joe Tsai of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the game against the Clippers on Feb. 21, 2021, at Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

“I think just having the fans have real, in-person sort of interaction with the stars. I think that’s going to be important,” Tsai said.

The NBA’s relationship with China has been a sore spot for some in recent years, as it’s been reported league owners all allegedly have over $10 billion invested in China. 

Enes Kanter Freedom, a former NBA center who has publicly ridiculed the league for its Chinese relationship, called out Silver for purportedly cozying up to the Chinese Communist Party, while turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses and treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the country. 

This came after a video from the Washington Wizards showed Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang shooting free throws. 

“I have been playing 11 years in NBA and over 800 games,” he said in 2022. “I have never, ever in my whole career [seen] any ambassador of any government that takes the court before or after the game and takes free shots.

Joe Tsai watches All-Star Game

New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai watches Sabrina Ionescu compete in the 3-point contest ahead of the WNBA All-Star Game at Michelob Ultra Arena on July 14, 2023, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


“I remember when my manager sent me that video, I thought it was a joke, but I just – when I saw that tweet from the Chinese ambassador – I was like, ‘This is just disgusting.’”

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