- Title: CHINA: BASKETBALL: Washington Wizards visit China after 30 years
- Date: 9th September 2009
- Summary: BEIJING, CHINA (SEPTEMBER 8, 2009) (REUTERS) SETTING UP NEWS CONFERENCE CAMERA OPERATOR FILMING (SOUNDBITE) (English) NBA HALL OF FAMER WES UNSELD SAYING: "30 years ago, we started to begin the process of friendship between our people. It's very humbling for someone like me to think that I might be sharing in a very small part of that. But I take great relish at the fact that it is partially true, I am very proud that I have done so."
- Embargoed: 24th September 2009 19:26
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA57DGXU9A6XW51KSM9XRSDGP1U
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: NBA's Washington Wizards visit Beijing 30 years after the team's first visit to China, to celebrate three decades of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China and for possible business opportunities.
National Basketball Association (NBA) side Washington Wizards are touring China to celebrate 30 years since the team, then known as the Washington Bullets, toured China in to try to help establish diplomatic ties between the two recently estranged nations.
Hall of Famer Wes Unseld and his team mates were the first NBA team to play in China when they arrived at the personal invitation of paramount Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping just after the U.S. had normalised relations with Beijing.
Unseld said his visit 30 years ago was the beginning of the diplomatic relationship between the U.S and China.
"30 years ago, we started to begin the process of friendship between our people. It's very humbling for someone like me to think that I might be sharing in a very small part of that. But I take great relish at the fact that it is partially true, I am very proud that I have done so," said Unseld at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday (September 8).
The process has gone a long way since then, not least for the NBA, which now has its own operation in China and has grown into the most popular professional sports league in the world's most populous nation.
Such popularity has not been missed and the marquee names of North American basketball, including Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, have flocked to China for promotional appearances this close season.
So, as well as marking the anniversary of their trailblazing trip and putting on basketball clinics on this 10-day tour, the Wizards were also looking to build business relationships.
"We want to continue our relationship. Clearly basketball is growing in popularity here in China. I think there are reasons for our organisation to continue the relationship with China whether it is business relationship or athletic relationship. We see a future there for our organisation," said the president of Washington Wizard's business operations Peter Biche.
Diplomacy through sports exchange in the 1970s helped China to get over the darkest period of Mao's Cultural Revolution. Contact between the Chinese and U.S. table tennis teams in 1971 ushered in so-called ping-pong diplomacy between China and the United States.
Basketball has been playing a greater role after Chinese basketball star Yao Ming made a successful debut in NBA less than a decade ago.
On late July, U.S President Barack Obama also quoted Yao in his opening statement to find common ground with his Chinese delegates visiting the U.S., and presented them with a signed basketball.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None