As China resumes NBA coverage, Rockets and 76ers are text-only

Ben DuBose
·2 min read

Chinese streaming network Tencent did not show video of Wednesday’s Philadelphia 76ers versus Washington Wizards game, and it did not plan to air the Houston Rockets versus Oklahoma City Thunder game, prior to its postponement. All other NBA matches on Wednesday, which was the first night of widespread games in the 2020-21 season, were shown.

Presumably, this reflects continued fallout related to former Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who tweeted a controversial image in October 2019 to support a Hong Kong protest movement. That tweet sparked significant backlash from Chinese interests against the Rockets and the NBA.

Morey moved from the Rockets to the 76ers last offseason, which explains Philadelphia’s inclusion on the “text-only” list. It isn’t exactly clear why Houston is still being blacklisted, now that Morey is gone, other than perhaps frustration that he wasn’t fired following the incident.

Houston was arguably the most visible NBA brand in China prior to the controversy, largely due to their selection of China’s Yao Ming as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA’s 2002 draft. The 7-foot-5 center went on to have a Hall of Fame career over eight seasons with the Rockets.

Immediately after Morey’s tweet, Chinese networks ceased showing NBA content for the 2019-20 regular season, which caused a significant hit to the league’s projected revenues. However, some games began airing again during the 2020 playoffs, and the relationship between China and the NBA appears to be improved entering the 2020-21 campaign.

Philadelphia and Houston, it seems, are the lone exceptions.

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