SHENZHEN, China - To one side of commissioner Adam Silver sat one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game. To his other side sat one of the most business-savvy owners in the game.
With Silver saying before tip-off of the first ever NBA game Sunday in Shenzhen that the reason the league chose to go to the city was because it had some of the most passionate basketball fans in China, as well as several business partners and innovative technology companies, it only made sense that the two teams playing in the game would be owned by Michael Jordan and Steve Ballmer.
“It is a real pleasure and honor to have a chance to be here today,” Ballmer said. “It’s all about basketball today. China’s the No. 1 country in the world in terms of basketball passion, and I’m glad the NBA has really built these great bridges here in China.”
Ballmer was his normal jubilant, animated and enthusiastic self, appealing to the media and those in attendance at the Shenzhen press conference by starting his speech saying “I love basketball” in Chinese.
All three of the NBA figures at the podium expressed their excitement about the teams playing in Shenzhen for the first time.
“From a Charlotte standpoint, I think it’s great for the players to get that type of exposure,” Jordan said. “We’re still up and coming. We want to be one of the elite teams. We want to be the Clippers. We want to be some of these teams that compete each and every night and are in the playoffs. So the experience is something I want the players to understand and respect.”
Speaking of respect, Jordan has plenty of it in China, hearing rounds of applause every time his face went on the video board during the game.
Jordan’s a beloved basketball figure in China, and this was his first time back in a decade. He said the progression of basketball in China and worldwide has been unbelievable to see, and he never would’ve thought it would grow this fast this quickly back in the early 90s.
“It’s a great example of how the NBA has expanded globally,” Jordan said. “With games like this, we’ll continue to expand from a basketball sense.”
Ballmer, Jordan and Silver all fielded questions for about 15 minutes, with most of them coming from Chinese media. They wanted to know why Ballmer wanted to own a basketball team and what he believed the Clippers need to work on most.
As for the former question, Ballmer said there’s no greater game to watch and it’s a game he’s always loved. For the latter, he listed three things he thought the Clippers needed to work on from the end of last year.
“We needed to have better depth on our basketball team, which I think we addressed in the offseason,” Ballmer said. “No. 2, we’ve got to be able to keep the intensity all year long. It’s a very long year into the playoffs. No. 3, we have to always be improving the level of teamwork. But we have a very talented basketball team.”