Timeline: NBA's relationship with China over the years
Grooming the Game

Beginning with the Washington Bullets' trip to China in 1979, the NBA has shared a 25-year relationship with China and the Chinese Basketball Association. Here's a look back at key events over the last quarter-century.

August, 1979
The Washington Bullets (now Wizards) led by Coach Dick Motta visited China in 1979 and played two exhibition games against the Chinese National basketball team and the Bayi Rockets team.

September 24, 1985
As part of the cultural and educational agreements between China and the United States, the Chinese National Basketball Team arrived in New York to begin a month of training and practice against NBA teams. Known as the NBA-China Friendship Tour, the Chinese team trained with then-Boston Celtics assistant coach Ed Badger while getting special instruction from NBA Legends Red Auerbach and Pete Newell.

March 10, 1992
The NBA opened its first office outside North America in Hong Kong, Asia. (NBA Asia)

On April 5, 2001, Wang Zhi-Zhi became the first Chinese player to play in an NBA game.
Ronald Martinez
NBAE/Getty Images
June 8, 1994
CCTV-China broadcasted Game #1 of the 1994 NBA Finals live. The network televised all seven games of the NBA Finals, marking the first time every game of the NBA Finals had ever been carried live in China.

November 15, 1994
Radio station KAZN-AM in Los Angeles aired a broadcast of the Lakers-Clippers game in Mandarin Chinese, making it the first time an NBA game was broadcast in Chinese in the United States. NBA games had previously been broadcast on radio in the U.S. in Spanish and Navajo Indian.

Aug 25-31, 1997
Center David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs and Forward Joe Smith, with the Golden State Warriors at that time, held basketball clinics to thousands of kids in Taipei, Taiwan; Hong Kong and Beijing, China.

August 16-23, 1998
A team of NBA legends composed of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe, led by coach Oscar Robertson, played four exhibition games against the Chinese National team in three cities including Shanghai, Hefei and Beijing in China.

May 1999
“NBA Shi Kong” (NBA Space & Time), a Chinese version of “Hoop” magazine, debuted in China. It marked NBA’s first publishing licensing agreement in Asia.

June 30, 1999
Nine internationally-born players were chosen in the 1999 NBA Draft. Three of the nine players were selected in the first round. The draftees included Wang Zhizhi, who became the second international player of Chinese descent to be drafted to the NBA. Sung Tao, who was the first Asian player drafted, was selected by the Atlanta Hawks on the 3rd Round at 67th pick in 1987.

March 30, 2000
NBA Commissioner, David Stern, addressed the Chinese media via video conference at the NBA Media Spring Gathering in Beijing, China.

June 8-July 7, 2000
A team representing the NBDL was one of six teams that competed in the 2000 Asian Basketball Association League. The team called the NBA Ambassadors led by Hall of Famer Nate “Tiny” Archibald, one of two squads representing Hong Kong, competed in a six-week 20-game regular season against teams from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.

July 13, 2000
Mike Jones, Rasul Salahuddin, and Wayman Strickland led the NBA Ambassadors to a 103-68 victory over China’s CBA All-Stars in the decisive third game of the Asian Basketball Association League championship series. The NBA Ambassadors, coached by Hall of Famer Nate “Tiny” Archibald, represented the NBA’s new developmental league (the National Basketball Developmental League) in the six-team ABAL.

August 11-17, 2000
The NBA Legends Tour, featuring a star-studded team of former NBA players including Clyde Drexler, Buck Williams and Rolando Blackman led by Head Coach Rick Barry returned to China in August with a series of games against the Sydney Olympic Bound Chinese Men’s National Basketball team. Three international exhibition games were staged in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai against the Chinese Men’s National Basketball team which served as final preparation for China National team to get a medal in Sydney. The first game was played in Beijing on Aug 11 and the NBA Legends took a 79-73 win over the China National Team. The second game was played in Guangzhou on Aug 14 and Eddie Johnson scored 21 points to lead the NBA Legends to a 90-77 victory. The NBA Legends lost to China 79-60 in the finale of the three-game series in Shanghai on Aug 17.

September 17, 2000
“The Great Wall”, China’s Yao Ming, Mengke Bateer and Wang Zhi Zhi debuted at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

April 5, 2001
Wang Zhizhi of the Dallas Mavericks made history as the first NBA player from China when he signed with the Mavericks on April 4 and played his first NBA game against the Atlanta.

June 16-23, 2001
Wang Zhizhi of the Dallas Mavericks, Antawn Jamison of the Golden State Warriors, Jerome Williams of the Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks Assistant Coach Donn Nelson Jr., participated in the NBA-CBA Friendship Tour. Coach Nelson Jr. conducted a two-day coaching clinic for over 100 basketball coaches from Beijing. Jamison and Williams teamed up with CBA players Jiao Jian and Zhang Yuan Song from to treat 1,500 specially invited young Chinese fans to a wide-ranging demonstration of basketball skills. The first major sporting event ever held in the Forbidden City, the demonstration was capped off by a team game of “H-O-R-S-E,” including an impromptu slam-dunk competition between the two NBA forwards.

August 10-14, 2001
L.A. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant traveled to Hong Kong and Beijing, China to promote the sport of basketball.

February 27, 2002
Mengke Bateer became the second player from China to play in the NBA when he joined the Denver Nuggets and records three rebounds in 14 minutes of Denver;s 110-93 loss at Golden State.

January 3, 2002
Wang Zhizhi of the Dallas Mavericks was honored with a set of legal tender stamps that were unveiled for the first time at a special event at the NBA Store. This tribute to Wang, China’s first NBA player, was part of the Legends of Sports postage stamp series issued by the government of Liberia and produced by IGPC, the world’s largest postal agency that represents more than 70 governments worldwide. In recognition of his contributions to the sport of basketball and as China’s first NBA player, he was immortalized on a commemorative series of postage stamps that are legal tender and valid for postage globally.

April 9 – 14, 2002
The NBA’s first Asian media tour was arranged to support the growing popularity of basketball across Asia. Media visited Dallas and Denver and featured in-depth reports on Wang Zhizhi and Mengke Bateer.

June 26, 2002
A record 17 international players were selected in the 2002 NBA Draft, held at The Theatre at Madison Square garden in New York. Yao Ming of China was selected by the Houston Rockets as the No. 1 pick.

July 24-26, 2002
Vince Carter, the NBA superstar, was invited by Nike to visit Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei. Carter donated basketball equipment to the China Basketball Association (CBA) and then was featured as a judge for a youth slam-dunk contest at the National Badminton Training Hall.

August 22, 2002
The USA squad played a pair of exhibition games during its training, meeting the Chinese national team at the sold-out Arena in Oakland. (USA 84, China 54)

August 29-September 8, 2002
The Chinese national team went 1-7 at the World Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana and finished in 12th place in the 16 team tournament.

September 25, 2002
The United States Women’s World Championship team won the gold medal in a thrilling 79-74 win over Russia in Nanjing, China. Sheryl Swoopes led the team with 18 points while Tamika Catchings added 16 points, 11 rebounds and six steals in the effort. Russia’s Elena Baranova (a former WNBA star) led Russia in their impressive silver medal performance. Australia, behind Lauren Jackson’s (Seattle Storm) 31 points took the Bronze.

October 8, 2002
The NBA officially opened an office in Beijing, China.

October 29, 2002
With the arrival of Chinese players Wang Zhizhi, Mengke Bateer and Yao Ming, there was a significant increase in traffic to NBA.com from Chinese-speaking NBA fans. Visitors from China accounted for almost five percent of all traffic to NBA.com, the second highest among international visitors to the site.

October 30, 2002
Yao Ming became the third Chinese player to play in the NBA when he played his first regular season game against the Indiana Pacers on October 30, 2002

November 14, 2002
The 2003 NBA All-Star ballots were made available, for the first-time, in three languages Chinese, Spanish and English on NBA.com for fans around the globe.

February 11, 2003
Yao Ming became the first Asian to participate in the NBA All Star Game after fans voted for him as the starting center for the West.

March 24-30, 2003
To support the growing popularity of basketball across Asia, the second Asian media tour (eight media from China and Hong Kong) visited Los Angeles, Houston and San Antonio and featured exclusive interviews with Yao Ming and Steve Francis.

June 1, 2003
San Antonio Spurs center Mengke Bateer was featured in a public service announcement promoting a clean environment.

September 19-October 5, 2003
The first ever NBA Jam Session in China–the 2003 Coca-Cola NBA Jam Session tipped off in Shanghai from Sept. 19 to 21 and traveled to Beijing for the following two weekends. NBA legends: Nate "Tiny" Archibald and George Gervin, NBA mascots: Rocky and Boomer, and NBA Dance team, the Golden State Warrior Girls were the featured guests to provide fans with their authentic NBA experience. Mengke Bateer made a special appearance and conducted a clinic for his fans at the final weekend in Beijing. Over 100,000 enthusiastic fans visited and participated in the first ever NBA Jam Session in China over the three weekends.

February 9-15, 2004
Eight media from China and Hong Kong participated in the third Asian media tour to Houston covering the games between the Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs as well as the L.A. Lakers. The media then traveled to L.A. for the NBA All-Star 2004 at the Staples Center.

February 15, 2004
For the second consecutive year, Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (China), was chosen by NBA fans as the starting center on the 2004 All Star Team for the West.

February 20, 2004
China Basketball Association (CBA) announced the appointment of Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Del Harris as the coach of Chinese national team at the Athens 2004 Olympics

March 8, 2004
The NBA opened an office in Shanghai, China.

April 24, 2004
The NBA Asia office hosted a viewing party in Shanghai, China. At the Playoffs Viewing Party fans cheered on Yao Ming in his first Playoff victory, in the first round, against the Los Angeles Lakers. Scenes from the party were transmitted to STV via ENG and shown LIVE during game broadcast.

May 16, 2004
NBA Asia hosted the second of two “Playoffs Viewing Parties”. Beijing fans were in attendance to watch Game 5 between the Wolves and Kings. The half-time entertainment featured Chinese rapper using "Kings & Wolves" and "NBA China Games" themes in their lyrics to work up the crowd.

May 18-20, 2004
Michael Jordan toured Beijing on behalf of Nike.

May 20-May 24, 2004
The Larry O’Brien Trophy made stops at sites across Beijing and Shanghai including the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Bund and the Oriental Pearl Tower.

July 20-August 1, 2004
The NBA teamed up with the China Basketball Association (CBA) to stage their first joint coaching camp in summer 2004. The inaugural NBA-CBA Coaches Camp, presented by McDonald’s, was designed to help improve the level of basketball in China by training the nation’s leading coaches. The camp was scheduled from July 20 to August 1, 2004 at the Beijing Capital Steel Gymnasium. Six NBA coaches and trainers traveled to China to share their world-class basketball expertise with more than 100 of their top counterparts from around China. Leading the NBA coaching group was Don Casey, former head coach of the New Jersey Nets, together with assistant coaches Dean Cooper of the Houston Rockets, Dick Helm of the New York Knicks and former NBA All-Star Rolando Blackman of the Dallas Mavericks. Daily instructional clinics, classroom seminars, and training sessions were conducted with the China 18-and-Under National Team players as the demonstration team. The NBA and CBA also produced an instructional video using footage from the camp and distributed free to coaches and players nationwide in an effort to upgrade coaching methods and playing skills throughout China.

August 15-29, 2004
Coach Del Harris led NBA star Yao Ming and the Chinese National Team to the medal round and a big win over Serbia and Montenegro, the reigning world champions, in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

September 17-October 14, 2004
The second Coca-Cola NBA Jam Session tipped off in Guangzhou from September 17 to 19 and will travel to Beijing for the following weekend. The event will then move to Shanghai from October 5 to 7 and October 13 to 14.