The NBA has spent years making in-roads in basketball-loving China, installing offices there, bringing players stateside and playing exhibitions there to increase the league’s presence in a country that can’t get enough of it.
One of the few steps left to be taken was to add a Chinese owner to a team. As the NBA’s chairman of the board, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor felt a particular sense of duty to make that happen.
Taylor finalized an agreement with two new minority owners on Wednesday, including the first Chinese minority partner in league history.
Lizhang Jiang has purchased a 5 percent stake in the Wolves, and Taylor said he plans to be very active in the team’s business side and forging partnerships for the league and the franchise in China.
Lizhang is a 35-year-old who founded founder Shanghai Double-Edged Sports Company, a sports marketing firm. He was introduced to Taylor through a mutual acquaintance and, after both sides found a desire to work together, Taylor spoke to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and solicited the league’s help in doing background research on Lizhang.
His addition to Minnesota’s ownership group may not do for the Timberwolves what Yao Ming’s arrival in Houston did for the Rockets, but Taylor believes Lizhang can make an impact both locally and abroad.