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Joe Tsai: Basketball’s global appeal due to ‘accessibility’ and ‘urban street culture’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images

In an email to an author of a Forbes Asia ranking of Hong Kong billionaires, Joe Tsai said he was attracted to the Brooklyn Nets because of basketball’s global appeal which in turn is due to its accessibility as well as its links to “urban street culture.”

“Basketball is a global sport because it is easily accessible and its urban street culture is appealing to young people,” Tsai wrote in an email to Ambika Behal, the author of the Forbes piece.

“Fans from all over the world, from China to Southeast Asia to Europe to the U.S., form a deep bond over this cultural phenomenon, led by the NBA and its stars.”

Indeed, Tsai’s research prior to buying the team and Barclays Center last year — for $3.4 billion — found value in Brand Brooklyn, as former CEO Brett Yormark used to call it.

Brooklyn is a brand throughout the world, his research showed. In Asia as well as North America, kids are into basketball, into hip-hop, into street wear ... and Brooklyn speaks to all that.

Under previous owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets pinned part of its marketing effort to the late Biggie Smalls, the Brooklyn native who was one of the founders of hip-hop. The team has worked extensively with his family and foundation.

The Nets city edition jerseys rep “Bed-Stuy” after the Brooklyn neighborhood where he was raised. Twice in the past two seasons, the Nets have given away Biggie bobbleheads at Barclays Center. Moreover, the team’s court and uniform design have paid tribute to Smalls through the use of his “coogi” style. His trademark crown can be seen on the Nets’ re-imagined court.

Forbes, by the way, lists Tsai as Hong Kong’s ninth richest man. Tsai has also been ranked by Forbes as the second richest Canadian. Tsai has residences in Hong Kong and La Jolla, California and is a citizen of both Taiwan and Canada.