Union, China-based group announce strategic alliance

NEW YORK -- The National Basketball Players Association and China's largest investment company, CITIC Guoan Group, announced Wednesday that they have launched a partnership that will further expand the reach of the NBA's athletes into the largest nation in the world.

The for-profit alliance will raise the profile of players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Tracy McGrady, already stars in China, through appearances and endorsements. China has a burgeoning middle class of about 300 million, roughly the equivalent of the entire U.S. population.

"We see it as a win-win," Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBPA, said of the pairing.

"We treasure the NBPA's resources," Yan Gang, chairman and CEO of China Guoan Culture & Media Investment, Co. Ltd., said through a translator.

"We're looking forward to working together to maximize the potential in China."

The "Bridges to China" program will also grow amateur basketball throughout China, establish business opportunities there for active and retired NBPA members, aid in charitable enterprises and promote awareness of African American culture in China.

CITIC (China International Trust & Investment Corporation) has assets, valued at $120 billion in 2006, including cable and radio networks, telecommunications, software development, tourism, real estate, a Beijing-based soccer team and two dozen golf courses.

Otto Strong is a senior editor for NBA at ESPN The Magazine.