A Twitter post by an NBA executive has sparked outrage among Chinese basketball fans.
The controversy began after Daryl Morey, the General Manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted a message last Friday supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Though he quickly deleted the tweet and apologized for his statement, the damage was already done, with Chinese sponsors and broadcasters quickly severing their ties with the NBA.
According to CNN Business, all 11 of the NBA's official Chinese partners have withdrawn their endorsement of the league since Morey's tweet.
CCTV, China's National Broadcaster, refused to air two pre-season games between the LA Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets currently taking place in China.
The Commissioner of the NBA, however, expressed his support for Morey's freedom of speech, saying everyone has a right to speak.
"What I also try to suggest is I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of in essence his freedom of speech, and we will have to live with those consequences. It's my hope that for our Chinese fans, and our partners in China, they will see those remarks in the context of now a three decade, if not longer, relationship."
But, Silver's response further inflamed a large segment of the Chinese population and is threatening the NBA's popularity in China.
Even the Chinese government released a statement to criticize the NBA Commissioner's remarks.
"Also, I suggest you to pay attention to how ordinary Chinese people react to this, and what their attitude is. If you want to hold exchanges and cooperation with China without knowing what public opinion is, it won't work."
Amid the growing spat, pundits say there's a lot at stake for the NBA as the Chinese market makes up at least 10 percent of the league's current revenues, and could reach the 20 percent mark by 2030.
Choi Jeong-yoon, Arirang News.