A look back at Chinese National Team's first visit to U.S., NBA in 1985
Coming to America


The NBA’s relationship with Chinese basketball dates back to 1978-79 when the NBA champion Washington Bullets (now known as the Washington Wizards), traveled to China to play two exhibition games against the Chinese National team.

In 1982, a group of NBA players, including All-Stars Alex English (Denver Nuggets) and Artis Gilmore (Chi. Bulls/San Antonio Spurs), toured China and participated in an exhibition game.

Then, in 1985, as part of cultural and educational agreements reached between the United States and China, the NBA invited the Chinese National team for a month of training and practice with legendary NBA coaches and other League personnel. The tour was called the NBA/China Friendship Tour and it was sponsored by Kaliber, a non-Alcohol malt beverage. The tour was the NBA’s first major initiative to help grow the sport of basketball in China and around the world.


The Chinese National team, which was preparing for the 1988 Olympic Games, participated in a full practice and training program that featured:

  • Hall of Famer Red Auerbach, the legendary former Coach and President of the 16-time NBA Champion Boston Celtics
  • Hall of Famer Pete Newell, the legendary coach and former Director of Player Personnel of the Golden State Warriors
  • Auerbach and Newell are considered to be among the most knowledgeable basketball minds in the world.
The daily workouts and instructional practices were conducted by two of the league’s top coaches:
  • Ed Badger, former head coach of the Chicago Bulls;
  • Bill Blair, former head coach for the New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Scrimmages and workouts were held with the following NBA teams who were in their preseason training camps:
  • New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and the Washington Wizards (then-Bullets)

September 24-October 27, 1985

  • The Chinese National team participated in daily workouts and ‘controlled’ scrimmages against six NBA teams: New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and the Washington Wizards (Bullets).
  • The club also participated in many social and ceremonial functions in each city.
  • New York Knicks on October 2, 1985 (at Uniondale, Long Island)
  • New Jersey Nets on October 4, 1985 (at Princeton, New Jersey)
  • Chicago Bulls on October 5, 1985 (at Beloit, Wisconsin)
  • Indiana Pacers on October 8, 1985 (at West Lafayette, Indiana)
  • Philadelphia 76ers on October 10, 1985 (at Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia)
  • Washington Bullets on October 11, 1985 (at Landover, Maryland)
Exhibition Games for Chinese National Team
  • Exhibition game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 21, 1985
  • Exhibition game vs. Queens College of Flushing, New York on October 24, 1985
The team attended NBA games:
  • Two New York Knicks preseason doubleheaders.
  • Boston vs. New Jersey - season opener at the Meadowlands Arena on October 25.
  • Philadelphia vs. New York - season opener at Madison Square Garden on October 27.
Exhibition Game With Cleveland Cavaliers
  • The Chinese National Team played an official exhibition game on Monday, October 21, 1985 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Springfield, Mass., as part of the annual Basketball Hall of Fame Game ceremonies. The Cavaliers defeated the Chinese National team 120-80. Ron Anderson of the Cleveland led the team with 30 points. Anderson got 19 of his points in the first half. Edgar Jones added 15 points, while Mark West had 14, Phil Hubbard and Mel Turpin added 11 points each. Lu Jinging led China with 18 points while Wang Fei had 11 points and Zhan Xuelei added 10.
  • The Chinese National Team also met with former NBA Commissioner and then-Hall of Fame President Larry O’Brien and his staff. The team presented the Hall of Fame with a special team autographed basketball that was to be displayed in the new international section of the Hall.
Social Functions and Dignitaries

Throughout the tour, the NBA hosted social functions where the Chinese team and delegation met with city leaders, and Chinese/American community groups. The functions included:

  • Sept. 26: Press Conference at NY City Hall; Tour of City Hall
  • Sept. 28: Tour of Intrepid Air and Space Museum and Circle Line Boat tour of NY.
  • Sept. 29: NY Yankees v. Baltimore Orioles baseball game at Yankee Stadium
  • Oct. 7: Press Conference at Daley Plaza in Chicago
  • Oct. 8: Tour of Purdue University, Indiana.
  • Oct. 9: Tour of City Hall and Philadelphia, including Liberty Bell
  • Oct. 10: Banquet hosted by Philadelphia Chinese-American community
  • Oct. 12: Tour of US National Parks in Washington DC; Photo on steps of US Capitol
  • Oct 18: Visit to Wall Street and NY Stock Exchange
  • Oct. 22: Tour of US Military Academy
  • Oct. 26: Farewell Banquet Dinner, hosted by USA-China friendship committee
The Chinese National Team also participated in press conferences, social and ceremonial events where they met with the following dignitaries:
  • New York Mayor Ed Koch
  • Chicago Mayor Harold Washington
  • Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode
  • Springfield Mayor Richard Neal