Hoops stars reveal dream of starring in China - and their new shoe lines - on flying visit
Basketball fans in Hong Kong got a two-day treat ending yesterday, when NBA superstars Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony came to town for promotional duties on behalf of Nike's Team Jordan brand.
On Tuesday, the pair met the Nike Hong Kong league's two All-Star teams (a selection of the best teenage players across town) for a practice session. Yesterday, the two league sides put their new skills to the test in an exhibition match at the Southorn gymnasium in Wan Chai. In between, the two NBA stars made stops at the Nike store in Wan Chai, tried out the spa at the Four Seasons hotel and took a trip up to The Peak.
Hong Kong is just the first stop of Nike's all-out promotional tour, which will also include stops in Chengdu, Hangzhou and Beijing. Nike and the NBA have long paid special attention to the China market, and with the upcoming 2011-2012 NBA season in serious danger of being cancelled due to a labour dispute, NBA players are more than eager to push their marketability in the East (fellow NBA star Dwyane Wade will join the guys up in Chengdu later this week).
China was definitely the first choice as a destination to play overseas, said both Anthony and Paul - two of the highest paid athletes in the world with salaries of US$17 million and US$14 million, respectively - when asked about potential work locations if the NBA season is indeed cancelled.
Of course, it helps that China has the highest number of basketball players (at about 300 million) and a booming shoe market. Both Paul and Anthony have new Nike shoes, designed with Chinese opera masks and colourful patterns, hitting the market at the end of this month.