Chinese basketball fans are already gleefully predicting Yao Ming will join LeBron James at the Cleveland Cavaliers after reports a Hong Kong-based company is set to take a minority share in the NBA franchise.
|Yao and LeBron face off at the Beijing Olympics [GALLO/GETTY]
US media reported over the weekend that New World Development Company was to take a 15 percent holding in the Cavaliers, the second-largest stake after owner Dan Gilbert.
The NBA is hugely popular in China with hundreds of millions tuning in to games involving Houston Rockets centre Yao and the report has been met with great enthusiasm in Internet chat rooms.
"It's very clear that the Cavaliers' next step is to buy Yao Ming," one said on Sina.com.
"And then to win the league championship, and then to build a Cavaliers' dynasty!"
It is not just Chinese players, however, who attract devoted attention from the legion of fans, and Cavaliers standout LeBron has a huge following in China.
"It's a big market, they love the game of basketball," LeBron told Cleveland's Plain Dealer newspaper.
"I've been over there the last four or five summers, and I know how much they are inspired about the game of basketball.
"So it could be good. It should be fun."
However unlikely, the potential pairing of All-Star Yao, who has topped the Forbes China list of top celebrities for the last six years, with forward LeBron, this season's NBA MVP, has captured the imagination of Chinese fans.
"If Yao Ming becomes the team mate of Lebron James, the pair will be invincible in the league," another web user commented on portal Sohu.com.
The investment, which must be approved by the NBA's board of governors, would be a first major investment by a Chinese company in an American sporting franchise.
The NBA has already been a major presence in China, staging regular exhibition games and signing joint ventures to build and manage state-of-the-art basketball arenas in major cities around the country.