NBA China Games | Team Arrives for Significant Trip

In the dark of night, just hours after putting the finishing touches on another sound pre-season victory, the 76ers set out on what could very well be one of their most noteworthy trips in recent franchise history.

True, the team’s 7,300-mile, eight-day trek to the South Pacific falls during a time of year when wins and losses aren’t being weighted towards the organization’s ultimate goal – a championship title.

But by participating in the annual NBA China Games, which consist of a pair of exhibition match-ups with the Dallas Mavericks Friday in Shanghai, and Monday in Shenzhen, respectively, the Sixers stand plenty to gain.

Professional sports, of course, is big business, and over the years, no American league has gained greater traction among Chinese fans than the NBA.

As such, the Sixers recognize that this week’s journey presents a terrific opportunity to build upon a global following that’s been growing, thanks to increasing success, and a roster that boasts not only a high number of international players (5), but immensely talented ones at that.

Internal planning for the NBA China Games began over a year ago for the Sixers, with preparations intensifying in recent months and weeks.

In conjunction with the NBA, staff members from both the Sixers’ business and basketball operations offices conducted several advance site scouts of the NBA China Games’ host cities.

Part of the purpose of these visits, of course, was to ensure that as many logistical details as possible were accounted for ahead of time. Another priority, however, was to for the Sixers to get a better sense of how the team could connect with Chinese hoop heads through collective and individual activations.

The Sixers, for example, have secured several corporate partnerships with prominent Chinese companies in order to leverage their visibility in advance of the China Games. As a result, the likenesses of Joel Embiid and Franklin can now be found on the bottles of the popular Chinese iced tea brand MasterKong.

Ben Simmons, meanwhile, will be part of a Beats headphone launch Thursday. He attended a Nike event Wednesday afternoon.

To bolster their Chinese social media presence in the run up to the China Games, the Sixers last year added a fluent Mandarin-speaking member to their digital department . Since then, he has helped the club make considerable in-roads in the Chinese market.

At last count, the Sixers ranked third among the NBA’s 30 teams in Chinese content consumption.

On the basketball side of things, Brett Brown has spent roughly half his pro basketball life abroad, in this part of the world, too. Due to his extensive involvement with Australian basketball, he estimates he’s been to China about two dozen times.

The roundball fervor there, he said, is no joke.

“I took JV, C-plus Australian teams to China, and you have 300 million people [in the country] watching the game,” Brown recalled Monday.

He went on to share a memory of seeing the 70 or 80 some basketball courts in Tiananmen Square all being used at the same time.

To Brown, that was a telling sign.

“I think that when you really get over there, and you feel China basketball, you feel the passion and the interest and the maniacal passionate fans they have. You realize that it’s a global game, and that we’ve got a responsibility, we got an opportunity.”

And also, it sounds like, a balancing act. This is a business trip, after all.

“I think that we’re organized, and I think we’ll manage it well,” said Brown. “Personally, I want to go over there and enjoy it, to let our team…handle it professionally and make sure we get some level of enjoyment and production out of this trip.”