Harden Likely Boosts Brooklyn Nets’ Popularity in China

    • James Harden had the No. 3-selling jersey in China in 2018.
    • Harden will pay nearly $14 million extra in taxes in Brooklyn.

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The Brooklyn Nets amped up their global appeal when they acquired James Harden from the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster trade.

The team has already drawn more local viewers this season than the Knicks — a stark role reversal. National networks’ interest in the Nets is likely to grow when the NBA releases the second half of its 2020-21 schedule.

Before Harden, the Nets were already one of the most popular teams internationally — particularly in China, a country with an estimated 500 million basketball fans. Nets owner Joe Tsai is the co-founder of Chinese tech giant Alibaba.

The Rockets, meanwhile, were previously one of China’s favorites. Harden had the No. 3-selling jersey in China in 2018, but the relationship soured in October 2019.

After former Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong protestors, several Chinese retailers pulled Rockets merchandise, China’s CCTV temporarily stopped airing NBA games, and Chinese sponsors pulled away from the franchise.

With the NBA now back on Tencent, the former MVP returns to the spotlight in China.

Harden’s wallet will take a hit, however: He’ll pay nearly $14 million extra in taxes through the remaining three years of his contract in Brooklyn than he would have in Houston.