Stephen Curry‘s popularity is hard to overstate. It’s not just the young boy across the street from me who shoots hoops in his driveway wearing a Curry jersey, show up early to any Warriors’ road game and the crowd watching Curry warm up will have plenty of 6-12-year-olds wearing Curry gear. His style and game have his fandom running deep.
And not just here — Curry leads the Warriors to be the most popular team in China.
That according to the “Red Card report” on the NBA put together by the Mailman Grop, which studied online influence and digital performance, particularly through social media, in China.
It found the Warriors were the most popular team in China, and by a fairly wide margin — not only do they have the most followers on sites such as Weibo, they have the most engagement.
The Houston Rockets remain the second most popular team. This was the team of Yao Ming, a franchise that worked hard to cultivate a following in China before most teams thought of that as a market to explore. It also doesn’t hurt the Rockets have James Harden. Third on the list was the Lakers, with LeBron James, and from there the fall off is pretty steep back to Toronto and Boston.
The second most popular player was Curry, followed by Klay Thompson in third, both members of the Warriors. Both Curry and Thompson also do tours of China every summer sponsored by their shoe companies (Thompson is signed with Chinese brand Anta for an estimated $9 million a season). Fourth and fifth on the list were Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul.
Kobe Bryant — who made an effort to grow his brand in China — remains the most popular former player, followed by Tracy McGrady and Dwyane Wade, according to the report.
The NBA has made a very conscious effort to grow its brand in China, to be known as the best basketball league in the world, with the best players. It’s working, and the NBA and Tencent recently agreed to a five-year $1.5 billion extension of the Chinese media company’s digital rights to broadcast games. A number of NBA teams have special jerseys and events each year to celebrate the Chinese New Year, a tradition that will continue this season.