NBA Down in the U.S., But Scores in China

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Considering the current U.S. economy, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that less than eighty percent of NBA season passes are being renewed, which is a record low level.  As a result, the NBA's decision to cut 9% of its workforce in the U.S./st1 :place>, which translates into about 80 jobs, also seems to be a pretty sound decision./span>

Despite these domestic setbacks, in China/st1 :country-region> the NBA has never looked better.  NBA Commissioner David Stern has just announced plans to build between 12 and 25 basketball arenas throughout China/st1 :country-region>, in collaboration with the entertainment group AEG.  Eager basketball fans will have to wait for the project to come to fruition, however, since both the NBA and AEG anticipate this project to continue for about twenty years./span>

If fan loyalty and dedication are any indication, developing NBA-style arenas in Chinaseems to be an extremely prudent investment, since it's nearly impossible to underestimate the enthusiasm for the NBA throughout China/st1 :country-region>.  There is a much higher percentage of Chinese males who have chosen English names including "Kobe" "Shaq," or "LeBron," than their U.S./st1 :country-region> counterparts, and over 400 million NBA products were sold in over 20,000 Chinese retail locations during the 2006-2007 NBA season. /span>

Experts expect NBA souvenir sales in China/st1 :country-region> to grow 60% this year.  One of my friends in China/st1 :country-region> told me that when he was in college, he watched every single NBA game one season, and he's hardly alone.  Hundreds of millions of Chinese fans have shown their NBA enthusiasm and should continue to do so, but building the venues over time is also a wise move./span>

Beijing/st1 :city> has invested billions in new infrastructure for athletic venues for the Olympics, and not all of them have been heavily used since the Games.  Furthermore, since the NBA hasn't finalized an expansion into China rushing into building these facilities without a pre-existing league in China/st1 :country-region> probably wouldn't be the strongest decision./span>

As the infrastructure and demand continue to develop, however, a Chinese NBA should shape up nicely.  The NBA China already employs over 100 employees in four Chinese cities, and has an additional 15 marketing partners throughout the country.   While it's still undetermined when a China-based NBA league will take off, strong fundamentals are in place for its success./span>

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