NBA unveils jerseys, other Chinese New Year plans

7:00 PM ET

Nearly four decades ago, the NBA took its first steps on Chinese soil with a visit from the Washington Bullets. The team played exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai in 1979, and, as it turned out, offered a glimpse of the future of basketball in China.

One of the players on the Shanghai team that opposed the Bullets was a center named Yao Zhiyuan, whose son provided a tipping point for explosive NBA growth in China when he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2002 by the Houston Rockets. Yao Ming would become one of the most influential players in the game’s history, ultimately earning eight All-Star selections and membership in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The NBA has since grown into a sports juggernaut among Chinese fans, both domestic and abroad.

To wit, the league announced details Wednesday of its sixth annual NBA Chinese New Year Celebration event, revealing commemorative uniforms to be worn by the Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards. Those teams and several others will host activities during the celebration, which runs from Jan. 27 to Feb. 12.

Perhaps the biggest highlight will be the retirement of Yao’s No. 11 jersey by the Rockets at halftime of their Feb. 3 game against the Chicago Bulls. Additionally, the league produced a commercial featuring star players Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Jeremy Lin to mark the event, which will feature a record 60 game broadcasts across myriad networks in China.