October 9, 2020 | 11:11pm | Updated October 9, 2020 | 11:13pm
Just over a year after an international uproar caused NBA games to be taken off the air in China, CCTV-5 announced that it was airing Friday’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Heat thanks to “goodwill” by the league.
The Lakers and Nets were set to play two preseason games in China last October when a tweet by Houston general manager Daryl Morey’s supporting Hong Kong protesters enraged China’s communist government. Morey later deleted the tweet, but Beijing shut down the NBA’s deal with CCTV, which has exclusive TV rights in China.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted in February that the league faced over $300 million in losses from Chinese companies pulling support. China finally relented after citing “goodwill” from the NBA, especially help in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
“During the recent Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, the NBA sent their well wishes to fans in China,” CCTV said in a statement. “We also took note of the league has been continuously delivering goodwill [to China], particularly making positive contributions to Chinese people’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic.”
It’s a positive sign for Sino-American relations, though it’s unclear exactly what role Taiwanese-born Nets owner Joe Tsai played behind the scenes as peacemaker.
One highly-placed NBA source said the demand for games was high among basketball-starved fans in China, who had only been able to stream games through Tencent.
Tsai — who co-founded the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and splits time between Hong Kong and the U.S. — has been on the board of NBA China. And both he and Alibaba have been integral to China’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
The Joe and Clara Wu Tsai Foundation — along with the Nets — sent a $3.7 million donation on Feb. 26. The Nets were in Washington that night, and center DeAndre Jordan was asked about Tsai’s charitable efforts.
“Joe is obviously a great businessman and has been exceptional as an owner of this franchise, and he definitely wants to help,” Jordan said via the Chinese social media platform Weibo. “And I think this is a huge epidemic that’s affecting us worldwide right now and anything helps.”
Tsai has also donated material goods — personal protective equipment and the like — in China, while the NBA has reportedly provided $1 million to the relief efforts. He also penned a lengthy Facebook post when the Morey flap first began, explaining the cultural issues involved.
“What I’m simply pointing out is how mainland China feels about this issue. … It’s definitely a third-rail issue for Chinese people on the mainland,” Tsai had told The Post at the time.
“I wanted to make sure that people in China don’t view the NBA as an anti-Chinese organization. I believe the NBA, because of its global nature — a quarter of the players are international … a business that has income from sources all around the world — is an international entity.”