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LeBron James, of the Los Angeles Lakers, battles with James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, in an NBA game. Photo: AFP

Houston Rockets return to China screens, 15 months after Hong Kong tweet ignited NBA controversy

  • Tencent broadcast the team’s loss to the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, first game shown since 2019
  • Philadelphia 76ers, who hired former Houston GM Daryl Morey in November, remain on streaming blacklist
The Houston Rockets returned to Chinese screens on Monday morning, 15 months after being pulled from broadcasts following the controversial tweet by then GM Daryl Morey supporting Hong Kong’s protesters.

Streaming giant Tencent, which owns the broadcast rights for the NBA in China, showed the Rockets 120-102 loss to the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers on Monday morning, China time. Fans who missed the live broadcast can see highlights online on Tencent, also for the first time since 2019.

This was the first game that the Rockets have had broadcast since Morey’s controversial tweet in October 2019, which led to tensions in the NBA’s relationship with China and initially saw the whole league pulled from streaming and television.

While the NBA returned to Tencent, the Rockets were blacklisted by both Tencent online and state terrestrial television broadcaster CCTV for all of last season, with only box scores available online.

NBA games only returned to CCTV during the NBA Finals in October, with the channel showing the final two games as LeBron James led the Lakers to the championship.
The Rockets, long known as “China’s team”, have remained popular in the country, with the latest Red Card Report showing their staying power on Chinese social media.

NBA-China: one year on from Daryl Morey’s Hong Kong tweet

Following the Tencent broadcast, Yao Ming’s former team appear to have been fully rehabilitated, with only a return to CCTV broadcasts to come.
The only team now blacklisted from Chinese screens are the Philadelphia 76ers, where Morey was appointed general manager last November after leaving the Rockets in October.

Chinese 76ers fans can only follow their team via box scores on Tencent, while there are no highlights available after the game.