Do NBA Owners Have Combined $10 Billion Invested In China?

Mark Cuban, NBA
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

A new report has detailed how much money some NBA owners have tied up in Chinese investments.

Citing a study conducted by a New York-based firm called Strategy Risks, ESPN claims NBA owners have around $10 billion in Chinese ventures despite the government’s authoritarian crackdown on free speech and the imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims in the country.

Between the personal investments and NBA China has grown into a $5 billion business, “the China value of each of the league’s 30 teams (is) an estimated $150 million,” per the ESPN report.

The story discusses the scrutiny put on the NBA and its owners since then-Houston general manager Daryl Morey’s controversial tweet in October 2019 in support of Hong Kong protesters. The NBA playoffs returned to state-run TV in China just now after a near three-year ban as a result of Morey’s tweet and now might just be investing in a few NBA games for the Chinese audience.

The study highlighted the investments of Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, Sacramento Kings co-owner Paul Jacobs, Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera, Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and Philadelphia 76ers’ principal owner Joshua Harris.

While some owners endorsed the NBA’s initiative to highlight the social justice effort in the United States, all have remained quiet on China’s human rights violations. China’s crackdown on Hong Kong protesters in 2019 over a new national security law came to the forefront of the league.

Then-Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong protesters as the Nets were about to face off against the Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai. Morey tweeted “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong,” before deleting it after backlash.

The tweet had a ripple effect throughout the NBA. China would pull NBA games off its state-owned TV only to return ahead of this season’s NBA playoffs, ESPN reported.

Tsai, who was born in Taiwan, is a naturalized Canadian citizen who holds a Hong Kong passport. He is a co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba and, in addition to the Nets, owns the WNBA’s New York Liberty and the San Diego Seals of the National Lacrosse League. He reportedly had a rift with Morey over the Hong Kong tweet but denied accusations of uninviting Morey to the Barclays Center for a game between the Rockets and Nets.

Tsai had defended a national security law in Hong Kong in an interview on CNBC and defended China for cracking down on alleged “separatists.”

“What is this for? It’s against sedition. It’s against people that advocate splitting Hong Kong as a separate country. I want to make sure that we prevent foreign powers from carving up our territories. I think Hong Kong should be seen in that context,” he said.

Additionally, Tsai was asked about China cracking down on human rights issues but asked to clarify what the host was talking about. The way he saw it, “the large number of the population – I’m talking about 80-90% of the population – are very, very happy for the fact that their lives are improving every year.”