This past week, basketball headlines have been dominated by the ongoing drama between the NBA and China, a basketball-crazed nation and longtime business partner of the league that nonetheless is home to vastly different political and societal norms as the United States.
So far, the complex China issue has strictly been an NBA controversy that hasn’t permeated the college game. At least not yet.
In three weeks, the Colorado men’s basketball team departs for a week-long excursion in China that culminates in the season-opener against Arizona State. The contest, which will be played as a nonconference game between the league rivals, is this year’s edition of the Pac-12 Conference’s annual game in China, a ritual that began in 2015.
The game is co-sponsored between the Pac-12 and China’s Federation of University Sports, which is overseen by the country’s Ministry of Education. A Pac-12 spokesman said that as of now the itinerary remains intact for the entire trip, which includes sightseeing tours and exhibition games for the Buffs as well as ASU.
The Buffs leave Nov. 2 and return to Colorado Nov. 10 following their game against the Sun Devils in Shanghai. CU set up its schedule to accommodate the lengthy overseas trip and does not play again until the home opener Nov. 16 against San Diego.
“That’s an NBA issue, and that’s an issue with their teams and their coaches, and something everyone’s talking about. We’re not,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We’re looking forward to the trip as an opportunity to see what the Chinese culture is all about and to visit one of the greatest cities in the world, which is Shanghai. Experience all that China has to offer. We’re not going to get involved in any of the comments that have been made by the NBA.”
Tensions flared this week in the historically amicable, and lucrative, relationship between the NBA and China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet offering support to the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. The political fallout has included a mandate from the Chinese government that no media availability be held following the preseason game Thursday in Shanghai between Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Lakers. (As an aside, former Buffs star Spencer Dinwiddie paced Brooklyn with 20 points and seven assists.)
League commissioner Adam Silver canceled his pregame media session as well.
Boyle said his program has not held any meetings with the Pac-12 regarding the China trip beyond what was originally planned. Yet given the NBA fervor all began with a single tweet, CU’s leader made it clear his team will be lectured on the nuances and responsibilities that come with visiting a foreign country. It was also during the annual Pac-12 China trip two years ago that three freshmen from UCLA were arrested for shoplifting.
“We’re visitors in their country, so we have to act like visitors,” Boyle said. “Have we had those conversations? Absolutely we have. Will we continue to have those conversations before we leave? Absolutely we will. I’m hoping that nothing happens between now and the time we leave. But we’re anxious to go, we’re looking forward to going. We just have to understand that we’re visitors in a foreign country. And we have to respect the cultures of that country and hopefully learn about. That’s what growing and education is all about. A great way to become educated is you travel. You learn about different people and how they live and all those sorts of things. That’s what this trip will hopefully be about.”