As part of the NBA China Games, the NBRPA, along with current and former players, seized the opportunity to visit Shanghai and Shenzhen and see first-hand the growing influence the NBA and its players have on the global stage. Current stars and Legends, Jermaine O’Neal, Dikembe Mutombo, Julius Erving, Jim Jackson, Caron Butler, Sam Perkins and Michael Finley, joined forces for a week-long trip that combined the history, passion and culture of China into an unforgettable experience.
“It was a great experience,” Butler said. “Being amongst so many of the all-time greats and to be able to enjoy that camaraderie and share this experience with them was incredible.”
The reaction to the NBA’s arrival in China was spectacular. The energy, size of crowds and the pure joy and excitement from the thousands of fans that welcomed the NBA’s arrival to their city was something that had to be witnessed first-hand.
“I’ve traveled so much internationally on behalf of the NBA, so I see a lot of it,” said Butler. “It amazes you when you are there in it. No one can describe what it is like. You need to be there, in the moment, to truly get a sense of the magnitude.”
As part of the trip, the Legends took part in a series of fan and partner events. Fan Appreciation Day, which took place in Shanghai, gave fans the chance to interact with their favorite NBA stars and Legends in a game-like atmosphere. For Butler, who has been to China and overseas numerous times on behalf of the association, said that this experience was really special.
“I think it’s important to honor and pay respects to the legacy of the game and the people that paved the way,” Butler said. “From my experience this year in China, it’s pretty special to see the wealth of young talent that recognizes the history of this game.”
The growth of the NBA on a global scale can’t go unnoticed; the impact…undeniable. From an international perspective, the focus has shifted to youth and growth in key regions around the world. The game’s international appeal, combined with the NBA’s savviness and forward-thinking, have combined to create a fan base in China that is hungry for more basketball.
“Every time I go to China, I see the intensity and wealth of fans over there,” said Butler. “It continues to grow and there is no indication of declining. The production was amazing. It was impressive to see the display of production by the Association.”
For the Legends to continue to be a part of the game and events like this is special. But above all, the most rewarding part was seeing the reaction from fans and the joy that they can bring to people. Nothing was more special than that.
“To see the faces of those young people, the fun that they were having, it reemphasizes why we do what we do,” said Jackson. “To be a part of that and to still feel like we are making an impact is an incredible feeling and something I want to continue doing.”