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Joe Tsai says love of New York is big reason he bought into Nets and Liberty

WNBA: Preseason-China National Team at New York Liberty Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In an interview with China Global Television Network, Joe Tsai says New York is becoming “kind of a second home” and his love of the city —and his personal history with it— is a big part of his decision to buy into the Nets and Liberty.

In an answer to reporter Karina Huber’s about why he bought the Liberty, Tsai noted his history with the city.

“It’s a New York team. New York is an incredible city,” said Tsai. “I went to high school in New Jersey, so it’s nearby. My first job after coming out of (Yale) law school was in New York. I met my wife here. So New York for me is kind of a second home. And obviously through my association with the Nets, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time watching game here ... in this arena.”

Both Tsai and his family became regular fixtures at Barclays Center during the Nets playoff run and he and his wife, Clara Wu, sat courtside when the Liberty played the Chinese national team last week.

A native of Taiwan and a Canadian citizen who splits his time between Hong Kong and LaJolla, outside San Diego, Tsai also told CGTN that he hopes his ownership of pro sports teams will help relations between the U.S. and China.

“I think the relations between China and the United States is the most important, most consequential relationship for both countries in the next one, two, three decades,” Tsai told CGTN, part of China’s state-run CCTV. “It’s going to define how prosperous the world will become. So having a positive relationship, a symbiotic relationship is very, very important...

“We’re now bringing the Chinese Women’s basketball team to the United States to play. This is an experience for them to see this country and also for the fans here to get exposure to the Chinese players. This kind of people-to-people exchange is very, very important.”

Tsai, of course, was also instrumental in getting the Nets and Lakers paired in the NBA China Games, a preseason event to held in Shanghai and Shenzhen in early October.

Tsai also reiterated that he’d like to have the opportunity to buy into Barclays Center.

“I would say all NBA owners —all the team owners— wish that they could have participation in the arena,” said Tsai who has an option to buy control of the team, starting in January 2021.

Tsai spoke as well as how the international potential of the NBA and WNBA makes buying the teams smart business.

“Basketball is a global sport,” noted Tsai. “Internationally, there are fans everywhere. Just look in China. I’ve heard figures anywhere from 300 million to 700 million fans that watch basketball, specifically the NBA. The NBA is the most watched sport on TV or on streaming media. It’s even bigger than soccer.

“And outside China, you can see a growing fan base in India, in Indonesia, the Philippines, even Mexico. So there’s a lot of international growth opportunities.”

Tsai credited the growth of the NBA in China to players like Yao Ming and former Net player Yi Jianlian succeeding in the U.S. and is now “hip and cool” to play the sport.

Meanwhile, Tsai was quoted in the New York Times Thursday about the effect the trade war between the U.S. and China is affecting Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce company he co-founded.

Tsai has been critical of the Trump Administration’s stance on U.S.-China trade but also has said, as he did Wednesday in a conference call with Wall Street analysts, that Alibaba would benefit if China agreed to import more American goods as part of a trade settlement.