The Houston Rockets are the most favored team in China, which was made evidently clear during their NBA postseason game this evening.
When the Rockets game started against the San Antonio Spurs this evening, more than 2 million people were watching the game. Then by halftime, the viewership was estimated at around 7.9 million people.
At its peak, it seemed more than 10 million folks in China were watching the game. Natural speculation would make one assume even more would have watched if it weren’t such a blowout win by the Rockets.
Howard Chen from ESPN estimated that nearly 12 and 14 million people would watch the game at its peak, though the lopsided match likely did not help viewership.
Over 13 million people in China streamed the Rockets game against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Round 1 earlier in the postseason. The partnership is aided due to the fact that China now has access to NBA League Pass.
As such, the viewership from this evening is not entirely shocking. More than 765 million people in China watched an NBA game last season — which is half their population.
Here is what one Chinese reporter said about why the team has chosen Houston (via NBA.com):
“The Rockets are China’s NBA team. It began with Yao Ming. But even in the years after he is no longer playing, this is the team that more Chinese fans know and follow. They are loyal to the team that made the first of their countryman the No. 1 choice.”
For comparison, when the Spurs won the NBA championship in 2010, there was not a single game that had more than 10 million viewers in the United States based on Nielsen viewing data.
The Rockets have worn special jerseys for the Chinese New Year and also played in China as part of the Global Games. During that exhibition against the New Orleans Pelicans, nearly 50 million people reportedly watched (via CNN).
If the Rockets can keep winning, that will mean even more viewership from China during the NBA postseason.