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China Keeps Calling, NBA Keeps Answering

August 2, 2010: Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics confirmed that he has signed a shoe deal with Anta Sports Products, one of the leading branded sportswear companies in China. Garnett is the second NBA player to endorse the company following Luis Scola of the Houston Rockets, who signed with Anta in 2008.

Garnett had been with adidas since 2003 and was a key part of the company's "Basketball is a brotherhood" campaign along with NBA players including Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

There are 300 million basketball enthusiasts and participants in China, according to Anta, which is why the nation has become a major business port of call for the NBA and its players. Kobe Bryant of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers ranks among the most popular athletes in the nation in terms of sales of shoes and jerseys, even outpacing national stars such as Yao Ming. And LeBron James made several stops there during a global tour prior to the the 2009-10 season. The NBA has an office and two NBA Store locations in Beijing, its only global brick-and-motar retail presence beyond its store in New York. And prior to and since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, major sporting goods companies including Nike and adidas have significantly ramped up their presence in the country.

Garnett is the latest NBA player to sign with a Chinese-based shoe company. Among others, Shaquille O'Neal and Damon Jones in 2007 signed with Li-Ning, which with Anta vies for position of top China-based sportswear brand in terms of sales and appeal.

In addition, former NBA player Stephon Marbury just re-signed a three-year deal with a team in the Chinese Basketball Assn., where under terms of his contract he would created a company to sell his line of Starbury basketball shoes. Marbury had a deal in the U.S. with Steve & Barry's but retained rights to the line after the national retailer declared for bankruptcy and ultimately closed its doors in 2009.

According to Anta, Garnett will support the signing with a tour of China tour in Beijing, Xiamen and Shanghai, where he will take part in a series of basketball events under the theme, "For Basketball. Choose China." During the 2010-11 NBA season, Anta Sports said it would launch a "KG" basketball sportswear series.

"I would like to offer my warmest welcome to Kevin Garnett for his joining Anta Sports as an endorsed player," Ding Shizhong, chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "This is a strong proof of his enormous popularity in both the United States and China..

According to Shizhong, leveraging Garnett's worldwide popularity and influence in the sport, combined with Anta's extensive basketball resources and nationwide integrated marketing strategy, "will no doubt help support the sustainability of the basketball industry in China, enhance our brand image, and bolster our leadership and competitiveness in the basketball market."

Among its other basketball initiatives in China, Anta has sponsorship deals with the Chinese University Basketball Association and the TV program "HOOPARK." 

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