With the 2011-2012 NBA season in jeopardy due to an extended labor dispute, fans are starting to wonder what they're going to watch if there's no pro basketball this fall. The league, in turn, has to confront the possibility that once basketball return, fans may have moved on to other forms of entertainment: NBA television ratings plummeted after its last lockout-shortened season, 1998-99.
The league does, however, have a significant safety net in case American audiences stop caring about pro basketball: China. For the past several years, the NBA has been aggressively courting Chinese basketball fans, setting up a league office with more than 100 employees and encouraging players to travel there. This summer, as labor negotiations continued, several high-profile NBA stars made the trip East to visit their overseas fans—and help ensure that once basketball comes on again, someone will be watching. Here, some of the most memorable photo ops from NBA stars' summer tours: