NBA + China + eSports = Super Smart


NBA2K Online In China (Photo: 2K/Tencent)

NBA2K Online In China (Photo: 2K/Tencent)

TNL Infographic 035: NBA2K ELEAGUE's 17 Teams (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 035: NBA2K ELEAGUE's 17 Teams (Infographic: The Next Level)

Further, of the 17 teams that will take part, 11 have already made or been involved in eSports team ownership, sponsorship or investment.

Speaking to CNBC from the CES Asia conference, NBA China CEO David Shoemaker said the following about the country's eSports potential:

"When you factor in not just filling arenas, but the content offering and what that can do with the millions of people watching it online, we think the sky's really the limit"

David, I totally agree.

I'm not a fan of copy/pasting a Press Release, #HotTakes or simply linking to an article but let's dig in a little deeper prior to The Next Level China eSports report in progress.


/01 1.4 BILLION

Every time I think I have some handle on China's scale, they get even bigger. By 2018, China's population will be 1.4 billion. Let's put that in perspective:

  • China has the 2nd highest youth population outside of India
  • China Mobile has more subscribers than the entire population of the US
  • China will have 100+ cities with a 1M population by 2020

Oh you're "1 in a million" in China? Great, there are 1,400 people just like you.



China is the NBA's 2nd biggest market after the US and basketball is ingrained within Chinese youth culture. Kobe needs a Presidential security detail every time he does a Nike promotional tour.

How and why is the NBA so big in China?

  • 1987: David Stern sells NBA broadcast rights to China's CCTV
  • 2002: Regular season games were drawing 10M viewers....during China's AM rush hour (NY Times)
  • 2008: NBA China established at $2.3B valuation and annual revenue of $150M+
  • 2012: 300M estimated basketball players
  • 2017: 450M estimated fan base

I'd add in other huge development: the 2002 #1 NBA Draft pick Yao Ming from the Shanghai Sharks.



Based on some of the articles and comments after yesterday's announcement, you would think this is China's first move into NBA Gaming or eSports.

It's been there since 2012.

NBA 2K Online made by 2K in conjunction with Tencent Games launched 5 years ago after starting discussions in 2009.

Tencent's eSports Domination (Graphic: The Next Level)

Tencent's eSports Domination (Graphic: The Next Level)

You already know how massive Tencent is - and getting bigger - and with their upcoming eSports channel announcement they're only going to continue to grow.

Well how is NBA2K Online performing in China?


According to industry analyst @ZhugeEx (FYI: If you're not following him you should. One of the few people I trust with real Gaming data) :

  • 35M Registered Players
  • Top 30 PC Game
  • Double Digit Revenue Growth Q1 2016 vs Q1 2017


This is a fantastic strategic move by the NBA and my 1 cent recommendations:

K.I.S.S. and launch US first with NBA teams only and keep the China league separate.