HONG KONG, JUNE 2 -- The National Basketball Association (NBA) will stage preseason games in Beijing and Shanghai in October 2004 as part of the league’s continuing effort to support the development and growth of basketball in China, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced today.

“We are excited about scheduling our first NBA exhibition games in China,” said Stern. “China has been our fastest growing global market and with the extraordinary success of Yao Ming, we anticipate the development of more elite players as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach. We look forward to a wide array of cooperative projects with China's Sports Ministry, its Basketball Federation, and the Chinese Basketball Association to help continue the growth of basketball in China.”

“After discussions with the NBA and others authorities in China, it was determined that October 2004 would be the most appropriate time to schedule two NBA games in China,” said Mr. Sun Kanglin, Director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports. “We recognize that the NBA is committed to bring the action and excitement of the very best basketball in the world to the growing contingent of basketball fans throughout China. We thank the NBA for their friendship and their support, and we pledge that we will work with the NBA to make the China NBA Games 2004 the best ever.”

“We are in agreement and fully support the NBA’s plan to play a preseason game in Shanghai in 2004,” said Mr. Jin Guoxiang, President of the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Sports. “We are proud to bring home Yao Ming, and we extend our most sincere welcome to the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings to Shanghai. We appreciate the confidence placed on us and we are determined to stage a world class basketball event that our fans and the people of Shanghai will be proud of. We hope to stage NBA games in Shanghai every year.”

The China NBA Games 2004 will be organized in conjunction with the respective Municipal Bureau of Sports of Beijing and Shanghai. The two games will be an extension of the league’s long-standing relationship with China that dates back to the 1978-79 season, when the NBA champion Washington Bullets (now the Washington Wizards), traveled to China to play two exhibition games against the Chinese National team.

Details and specific dates of the games will be announced later along with a comprehensive schedule program of basketball and fan-development events to commence this fall and run through the 2003-2004 season.

The NBA has since established offices in Hong Kong and Beijing, China and has visited Asia several times over the years through various coaching clinics and player tours, including visits by Kobe Bryant in 2001 and the NBA Legends Tour in 2000. The NBA also visited China in 1982, with a group of NBA players, including All-Stars Alex English (Denver Nuggets) and Artis Gilmore (Chi. Bulls/San Antonio Spurs), who toured the country and participated in an exhibition game. In 1985, as part of cultural and educational agreements reached between the United States and China, the NBA invited the Chinese National team to the USA for a month to train and practice with legendary NBA coaches and other league personnel.

Since its founding in 1946, the NBA truly has become a global phenomenon that transcends national boundaries. Yao Ming is one of a contingent of 65 international players from 34 countries and territories on team rosters for the 2002-03 NBA season.

NBA.com, the league’s official Web Site, also has a comprehensive Chinese destination, www.NBA.com/china. The site, one of eight international Web sites on NBA.com, is written entirely in Chinese characters and provides fans with extensive NBA coverage throughout the season, including offseason trades 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.

In addition to the two games in China in 2004, the NBA also announced its international preseason schedule for October 2003. There will be preseason games in Mexico City, Mexico on October 5 (Dallas vs. Utah), San Juan, Puerto Rico on October 7 (Miami vs. Philadelphia), Paris, France on October 8 (San Antonio vs. Memphis) and Barcelona, Spain on October 10 (Memphis vs. FC Barcelona). In addition, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Seattle SuperSonics will open their 2003-04 NBA regular season schedules with two games at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan on Thursday, October 30 and Saturday, November 1. The rest of the 2003-04 NBA preseason and regular season schedules will be announced later this Summer.