Chinese basketball fans flocked to Xiamen airport on Sunday to catch a glimpse of the NBA’s Kyrie Irving on his first trip to China since 2017.
The Dallas Mavericks guard flew into the Fujian province for a promotional tour with sports apparel brand Anta, one of whose head corporate offices is based in the city.
A video circulating on Chinese social media showed Irving fighting his way through a packed mob chanting his name.
The 31-year-old has begun a six-day promotional tour for his new shoe with Anta – the Shockwave 5 Pro – which was released on Friday in China.
The eight-time NBA All Star will reportedly fly to Shanghai on Wednesday for the next leg of his tour.
Irving, also a creative officer with Anta, attended a brand dinner on Sunday evening, where he spoke to a crowd of hundreds.
His visit comes six years after his popularity exploded in China following a promotional tour of Asia with American sports apparel giants Nike, where he visited Tokyo, Taipei, and finally Beijing.
Basketball fans buzzed about Irving’s return on the social media platform Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.
“Everyone has different experiences, but the only thing they have in common is that they all love Kyrie Irving,” one fan wrote.
Another shared a video of Irving surrounded by fans, writing “Irving arrived in Xiamen … the fans were so enthusiastic.”
Irving’s trip to China comes on the heels of his fellow NBA superstar James Harden’s visit for his own promotional tour.
The incident came while the NBA attempts to patch up a tumultuous relationship with China, after a 2019 tweet from Morey – who was then general manager of the Houston Rockets – in support of the anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
Morey’s tweet resulted in coverage of the NBA being suspended in China for the whole of the 2019-20 season.
With Covid-19 restrictions now dropped in China, multiple NBA players have returned to the country for promotional tours during the off season this summer, however, with the league still revered across the country.
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