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Joe Tsai shows off basketball skills ahead of Pac-12 games


Still no official announcement from the Nets on Joseph Tsai’s reported purchase of a minority stake in the team, but Tsai, by all accounts a huge hoops fan, was seen showing off his ball-handling skills, talking with Hall of Famer Bill Walton, and taking selfies with U.S. college players (including one from Brooklyn) at Alibaba’s headquarters on Monday.

While the Nets haven’t officially announced the deal, Alibaba, the big Chinese e-commerce company Tsai co-founded, has.

Tsai, as executive vice-chairman of the big Chinese e-commerce company, is hosting a Pac-12 game in Shanghai Saturday and gave players from UCLA and Georgia Tech a tour of Alibaba headquarters in Huangzhou.

Mark Dreyer of China Sports Insider tweeted out pics.

That’s Jose Alvarado of Brooklyn and Georgia Tech to Tsai’s left in the selfie shot.

And Arash Markazi of ESPN later tweeted out video of Tsai shooting around with UCLA.

Tsai, who’s a citizen of Taiwan and Canada and a graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, is buying 49 percent of the Nets with an option to take a controlling interest in 2021, according to reports. He is purchasing the stake personally, not as an officer of Alibaba, as the company announced. The price of the initial stake is reportedly $1.127 billion, giving the Nets a valuation of $2.3 billion, a record.

Alibaba announced the Pac-12 deal last month, stating that it will televise 175 Big-12 games across China this season. Tsai played a big role in the deal.

”Alibaba is thrilled to extend our partnership with the Pac-12 to further realize our goal of bringing the best live sports experience as well as broadcast and streaming content to China,” said Tsai in announcing the deal last month. “This partnership demonstrates our shared value with the Pac-12, that the pursuit of athletic excellence is an integral part of education. We believe that Alibaba should be doing as much as we can to enhance the health, mind and well being of young people in China.”

Starting this fall sports season, Alibaba Group will annually distribute 175 live Pac-12 Network events and 100 hours of original programming throughout mainland China.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Joe Favorito, a New York-based marketing consultant, Dreyer spoke about the Nets potential to replace the Rockets as “China’s team” under Tsai.

“His arrival in the NBA won’t make much difference back home, where basketball is already hugely popular and fans already have their favored teams and players. But over the longer term, the Nets could build up their brand in China so as to rival the Houston Rockets, which has thus far been known as ‘China’s team’.”

The Nets and Rockets are currently the only two NBA teams with players of Asian heritage on their roster. The Nets, of course, have Jeremy Lin and the Rockets Zhou Qi, a 7-foot rookie from Xinxiang, China.