If you somehow missed it, the NBA found itself in the middle of a geopolitical controversy in China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted out his support for protesters in Hong Kong. What followed was backlash from China while the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets played two exhibition games in awkward settings with no advertising and media coverage. The games were not shown on Chinese television despite a large live audience.
Beyond affecting players on the court, the situation is also impacting them off of it. According to The Athletic’s Bill Oram, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma had planned on announcing multiple endorsement deals in China but “scrapped” the plans after the controversial events unfolded:
Kuzma’s plans to announce additional sponsorship deals with Chinese companies were scrapped once the Lakers arrived on Tuesday and found themselves caught in the middle of a stalemate between the NBA and the Chinese government.
Kuzma recently signed a prolific endorsement deal with Puma becoming one of the main faces of the up-and-coming sneaker company. The third-year veteran hired Leon Rose of CAA as his agent this summer in part due to his desire to expand his business interests. His relationship with former Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant as well as current teammate LeBron James has also been instrumental in expanding his brand to Asia.
Clearly, this whole situation will take time to be fixed. The NBA has billions of reasons to continue being invested in the Chinese market and NBA players have traditionally profited off the court from their popularity in the large country. Kuzma is not unique in being affected by these events although it is happening to him much earlier in his off-court career.