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LOS ANGELES, Feb. 14 -- The first-ever NBA games in China will take place October 14 and 17 when the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings play preseason games in Beijing and Shanghai, it was announced today by NBA Commissioner David Stern, together with Mr. Sun Kanglin, President of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sport and Mr. Jin Guoxiang, President of the Shanghai Administration of Sports at a press conference on All-Star Saturday in Los Angeles. The National Basketball Association will be the first American professional sports league to stage games in China.

The historic NBA China Games 2004 will be played on October 14 in Shanghai at the Shanghai Stadium with a capacity of 11,500 seats, and on October 17 in Beijing at the Capital Stadium with a capacity of 17,500 seats. Both stadiums will be newly renovated for the games. Tickets for the games are scheduled to go on sale in June.

“The NBA China Games are the logical next step in the NBA’s long-term relationship with Chinese basketball and Chinese fans. We have worked closely with the China Basketball Association, as well as the sports authorities of Shanghai and Beijing,” said Stern. “Our television relationships in China have grown to 14 telecasters that now carry our game. We have sponsored numerous clinics and promotional events and opened offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and next month in Shanghai. We are delighted that all this has led to the scheduling of these preseason games.”

Marketing partners for the NBA China Games 2004 include: Anheuser-Busch, Kodak, The Coca-Cola Company, Reebok and The Walt Disney Company, parent company of the NBA’s broadcast partners ABC and ESPN. In the U.S., the game in Shanghai will be broadcast on October 14 at 7:30 a.m. ET (4:30 a.m. PT) on ESPN and re-aired on ESPN2 at 7:30 pm ET (4:30 p.m. PT). The game in Beijing will be broadcast on October 16 at midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT) on ESPN and re-aired on October 17 at 1:00 p.m. ET (10:00 a.m. PT) on ESPN. China Central Television (CCTV) and Shanghai TV (STV) are the respective host broadcasters for the games in Beijing and Shanghai. Both games will be carried live on CCTV 5 and Great Sports Channel, with re-airs on both channels and CCTV 2.

“Disney is pleased to partner with the NBA in bringing these games to the Chinese people because we share the league's belief, based on our own business experiences in Asia, that sports and entertainment are universal in their appeal," said Michael Eisner, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. "As we have seen time and again, sports bring people of various cultures closer together in ways that benefits us all.”

“We are happy to work with the NBA to bring these highly anticipated games to China, we know that these games will not only bring enjoyment to the basketball fans, but most importantly, to spur the development of our elite players,” said Mr. Sun Kanglin, President of Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sport. “On behalf of all our fans, we extend our most sincere welcome and friendship to the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings to China.”

“We are proud that Yao Ming will bring all his Houston Rockets teammates home to play in front of all his fans,” said Mr. Jin Guoxiang, President of Shanghai Administration of Sports. “Yao Ming has worked hard and achieved extraordinary success in the NBA in just two years, and we hope that this will serve as an inspiration to all our young people.”

The NBA China Games 2004 will be organized in conjunction with the respective Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sport and Shanghai Administration of Sports. Since joining the league in 2002, the NBA China Games will be the first time Yao Ming returns to his native country with his NBA team, the Houston Rockets. The two games are an extension of the league’s long-standing relationship with China that dates back to 1978-79, when the NBA champion Washington Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) traveled to China to play two exhibition games against the Chinese National team.

Since its founding in 1946, the NBA truly has become a global phenomenon that transcends national boundaries. Yao Ming is one of 67 international players from 33 countries on team rosters for the 2003-04 NBA season. To grow the game of basketball, the NBA established offices in Hong Kong and Beijing, China and has visited China several times over the years, conducting coaching clinics and player tours, including an interactive fan event, the NBA Jam Session this past summer. The 2003 Coca-Cola NBA Jam Session, the first ever of its kind in China, tipped off in Shanghai on Sept. 19, 2003 and then traveled to Beijing for the following two weekends. NBA legends Nate "Tiny" Archibald and George Gervin; NBA mascots Rocky and Boomer; and the Golden State Warrior Girls dance team were the featured guests providing fans with their first authentic NBA experience. Former NBA player Mengke Bateer, a member of the 2003 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, made a special appearance and conducted a clinic during the event’s final weekend in Beijing. Over 100,000 enthusiastic fans visited China’s NBA Jam Session during the three weekends from September 19 to October 5.

NBA.com, the league’s official Web Site, also has a comprehensive Chinese destination, NBA.com/china. The site, one of nine international Web sites on NBA.com, is written entirely in Chinese characters and provides fans with extensive NBA coverage throughout the season, including all NBA team information and breaking news. With the arrival of Chinese players like Yao Ming, the number one pick in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, there has been a significant increase in traffic to NBA.com from Chinese-speaking NBA fans. More than half of the visitors to NBA.com during November, 2003 were from outside of the United States for the first time ever with China leading the “Top 10” countries visiting NBA.com outside of the U.S.