China's Vice President Wants To See Clippers Game, Settles For Lakers Instead
Xi is also a professed basketball enthusiast, something that he bonded over with President Barack Obama this Tuesday. When Xi found out that he would be visiting Los Angeles he decided, along with his staff, that it would be a good diplomatic move, at home and abroad, to take in a professional basketball game. This is perceived as an attempt by Xi's staff to create an image for him as an open-minded leader.
While this move was not entirely unexpected, the team that Xi requested to see was. According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, Xi told U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that he wanted to see the Clippers play. Unfortunately for the Chinese leader, the Clippers do not play a home game while he is in town. But as luck would have it, the Lakers are at home. While they may not be his first choice, Xi will just have to settle for a game between the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Poor guy!
The NBA is the most popular sports league in China, and Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is the country's most popular player. His jersey tops the sales list in the People's Republic, beating out the likes of LeBron James and Dwight Howard for the honor. China also serves as the NBA's number one merchandise and television market.
Bryant's influence in China runs deep. He even had a reality television show in the country called "Kobe's Disciples." The program invited 24 Chinese youngsters to America for the chance to learn the game of basketball from Bryant himself.
Despite Bryant's sphere of influence in the economic superpower, Xi was still more interested in seeing Blake Griffin and Chris Paul play. His request illustrates a rise in popularity at home and abroad for a Clippers team that has played second-fiddle to the Lakers for decades.
The Clippers are now enjoying a level of success that they are very much unaccustomed to, and China appears to have taken notice. A quick glance at the NBA's attendance records reveals that people at home are becoming increasingly aware as well. The Clippers are outdrawing the Lakers at Staples Center and on the road by a few hundred fans per night. Just last year the Lakers attracted 1,000 more fans per game (at home and away) than the Clippers.
The Clippers take on the Washington Wizards at Staples Center tonight. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 PM. The Lakers next home game will be against the Suns, with Vice President Xi looking on.
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